Background: Errors occur frequently in management of the testing process in primary care physicians' offices. These errors may result in significant harm to patients and lead to inefficient practice. Important issues are summarized for primary care clinicians and their offices toconsider in improving the management of the testing processes.
Methods: To identify published efforts to improve management of the testing process, a literature search was performed and the references from the identified articles were checked for additional studies. Descriptive studies, expert opinion pieces, and controlled trials were all included. Unpublished results of ongoing studies in laboratory testing errors in primary care practice are presented.
Results: A conceptual model of the testing process was developed, with identified general and specific errors that occur in the testing process. On the basis largely of descriptive studies, ways are described to reduce testing process errors and the harm resulting from these errors.
Conclusions: Standardization of processes, computerized test tracking systems (especially those embedded in electronic medical records), and attention to human factors issues are likely to reduce errors and harm. These ideas need confirmation in well-designed randomized trials and quality improvement initiatives.