Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Partners Healthcare in Boston have discovered that notifying a patient's physicians of the results of tests pending at discharge can markedly improve physician awareness of patient status and improve care.

"Physician awareness of the results of tests pending at discharge (TPADs) is poor," according to researchers in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. "We developed an automated system that notifies responsible physicians of TPAD results via secure, network email. We sought to evaluate the impact of this system on self-reported awareness of TPAD results by responsible physicians, a necessary intermediary step to improve management of TPAD results."

The article’s authors had previously determined that 41 percent of patients left the hospital before all test results were reported, and 9.4 percent of those patients' test results were considered potentially actionable. However, researchers surveyed attending and primary care physicians of 441 patients and discovered that physician awareness of TPAD doubled among physicians who received the notifications--76 percent versus 38 percent in the control group. Intervention attending physicians tended to be more aware of actionable TPAD results (59 versus 29 percent).

The authors concluded that the automated notification system is practical for any healthcare network using secure external messaging for clinical communication, assuming accurate identification of physicians involved in a patient's transition.

"In theory, this strategy could facilitate electronic acknowledgement, transfer of responsibility, and subsequent actions, thereby improving patient safety during care transitions," they wrote.

The article is available here.

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