Background: Ineffective management of laboratory test results can result in suboptimal care and malpractice liability. However, there is little information available on how to do this important task properly in primary care settings.
Methods: We used a questionnaire guided by a literature review to identify a conceptual model, current practices, and clinicians who reported having an effective method for at least one of 4 steps in the process of managing laboratory test results. Clinicians with differing methods were selected for each of the steps. Practice audits and patient surveys were used to determine actual performance. On the basis of these audits, we constructed a unified best method and conducted time-motion studies to determine its cost.
Results: After auditing only 4 practices we were able to identify effective methods for 3 of the 4 steps involved in the management of laboratory test results. The unified best method costs approximately $5.19 per set of tests for an individual patient.
Conclusions: By identifying effective practices within a family practice research network, an effective method was identified for 3 of the 4 steps involved in the management of laboratory test results in primary care settings.