Barriers and facilitators impacting reliability of the electronic health record-facilitated total testing process

Int J Med Inform. 2019 Jul;127:102-108. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2019.04.004. Epub 2019 Apr 8.


Objective: Despite ongoing efforts to improve reliability of the total testing process (TTP), breakdowns continue to occur resulting in diagnostic delays and suboptimal patient outcomes. We performed an exploratory study to identify factors that impact TTP reliability in electronic health record (EHR)-enabled care.

Materials and methods: We interviewed experts at three large EHR-enabled health care organizations and identified all TTP steps performed from clinician test ordering to result communication to patients. Findings from all sites were combined to develop a detailed process map of known TTP activities. We additionally asked experts about factors that positively or negatively impacted TTP reliability at each step. We describe the specific TTP steps identified and associated barriers and facilitators to TTP reliability.

Results: We interviewed 39 experts involved in or overseeing the TTP. Most TTP activities identified were similar across sites, but we found significant differences with test order transmission to diagnostic services and relay of results back to clinicians and patients. Twenty-five unique barriers were identified related to technology and EHR usability issues, time and resource constraints, suboptimal clinic workflows, patient-related factors, information access limitations, and insufficient clinician training. Twenty-four unique facilitators were identified related to personnel training, workflow optimization and standardization, helpful EHR features, and improved electronic communication between clinics and diagnostic services.

Discussion: Barriers related to EHR usability and with communication between clinicians and diagnostic services increase TTP vulnerability and should be targeted by future efforts to improve process reliability. Several facilitators identified in the study could inform future strategies and solutions to improve TTP reliability.

Keywords: Electronic health records; Health information technology; Laboratory; Medical informatics; Radiology; Test results; Total testing process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Electronic Health Records / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Workflow