Technology-Based Closed-Loop Tracking for Improving Communication and Follow-up of Pathology Results

J Patient Saf. 2022 Jan 1;18(1):e262-e266. doi: 10.1097/PTS.0000000000000759.


Objective: Failure to follow-up on laboratory test results can lead to missed diagnoses, diagnostic delays, patient harm, and potential malpractice claims against providers. State-of-the-art tracking technologies such as the radio frequency identification (RFID) can potentially improve laboratory order processing and test result communication. We conducted a comparative evaluation of differences in completion rates for 5 testing process milestones and time to reach these process milestones, with and without RFID order tracking for skin biopsy orders.

Methods: This observational study analyzed 48,515 orders from 20 dermatology providers, sent to 8 pathology laboratories in 2016 to 2017. Descriptive t tests and multiple Cox proportional hazard regressions were used to examine the differences in completion rates and times to the 5 testing process milestones, namely, (1) provider receipt of results, (2) provider review of results, (3) patient notification, (4) follow-up scheduling, and (5) order case closure, for orders processed with and without RFID order tracking.

Results: Descriptive statistics illustrated that all 5 testing process milestone completion rates were statistically higher for RFID tracked orders compared with non-RFID tracked orders, and RFID tracked orders took 3 to 5 days lesser than non-RFID tracked orders to reach the 5 testing process milestones. Multiple cox proportional hazard regressions showed that the process milestones were achieved faster if orders were RFID tracked versus not (hazard ratios ranged from 1.3 to 4.9).

Conclusions: The RFID tracking technology considerably improved test result communication timeliness and reliability. Such technologies can be beneficial for laboratory order processing, and their effectiveness should be explored in other practice settings.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Radio Frequency Identification Device* / methods
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Technology