The largest study to date of testing errors reported by family physician offices in the United States found that problems occur throughout the testing process and disproportionately affect minority patients.
In the June 2008 issue of Quality & Safety in Health Care, the researchers report that medical testing errors led to lost time, lost money, delays in care, and pain and suffering for patients, with adverse consequences affecting minority patients far more often.
"I think everybody has had an occasion where their physician did a test, and they just didn't hear back," said John Hickner, MD, professor and vice chair of family medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center. "People identify that as a common experience. The incident reports we received voluntarily from family physicians and their office staff detail what the problem areas are."
"There's a fair amount of risk and harm that results from testing mistakes and slips," he added. "This data provides a starting point for improvement."
The study took place at eight family physician offices--all part of the American Academy of Family Physicians National Research Network. Four of the doctors' offices were rural, three urban and one suburban.
During 32 weeks in 2004, 243 clinicians and office staff submitted 590 anonymous reports describing 966 medical-test-related errors. The tests included lab work, diagnostic imaging and other tests such as pulmonary function tests and electrocardiograms.
Errors were classified in one of 10 categories: test ordering, test implementation, reporting results to the clinician, clinician responding to results, notifying the patient of results, administrative, treatments, communications, other process errors, and knowledge and skills.
The most common errors involved failure to report results to the clinician, accounting for one out of four (24.6%) reported mistakes. Test implementation (17.9%) a
|Contact: Suzanne Wilder|
University of Chicago Medical Center