The delivery of safe and effective test result communication, management and follow-up

Public Health Res Pract. 2023 Sep 13;33(3):3332324. doi: 10.17061/phrpp3332324.


Objectives: This paper reports on a program of research funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHRMC) partnership grant (2015-2021) entitled "Delivering safe and effective test result communication, management and follow-up". The project's objectives were to: 1) improve the effectiveness and safety of test-result management through the establishment of clear governance processes of communication, responsibility, and accountability; 2) harness health information technology to inform and monitor test-result management; and 3) enhance consumer contribution to the establishment of safe and effective test-result management systems. Type of program: The partnership project addressed its key objectives through: i) the development of a consumer-driven approach; ii) using diagnostic stewardship and digital health to enhance safety and quality; iii) identifying clinical workflows that can lead to timely and meaningful communication; and iv) contributing to the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia and Australasian Association for Clinical Biochemistry and Laboratory Medicine's work on nationally harmonised alert thresholds for critical laboratory results.

Methods: The project employed a convergent mixed-methods approach using multistage studies across hospitals in South Eastern Sydney and Illawarra and Shoalhaven Local Health Districts. A consumer-centred approach, including patient reference groups and community forums, was used to identify mechanisms to enhance consumers' role in test-management governance processes and inform the direction of the research and interpretation of findings. Results and lessons learnt: The body of evidence generated by the project highlights the multilayered and interconnected components required to achieve safe and effective test results management. Addressing the significant patient safety risk associated with the failure to follow-up test results must include consideration of diagnostic clinical work tasks (involving multiple people across numerous clinical settings) and embrace patient-centred and digital health strategies for shared information and timely and meaningful communication.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans