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Why Test Results Are Still Getting "Lost" to Follow-up: a Qualitative Study of Implementation Gaps.

Zimolzak AJ, Shahid U, Giardina TD, Memon SA, Mushtaq U, Zubkoff L, Murphy DR, Bradford A, Singh H. Why Test Results Are Still Getting "Lost" to Follow-up: a Qualitative Study of Implementation Gaps. Journal of general internal medicine. 2022 Jan 1; 37(1):137-144.

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BACKGROUND: Lack of timely follow-up of abnormal test results is common and has been implicated in missed or delayed diagnosis, resulting in potential for patient harm. OBJECTIVE: As part of a larger project to implement change strategies to improve follow-up of diagnostic test results, this study sought to identify specifically where implementation gaps exist, as well as possible solutions identified by front-line staff. DESIGN: We used a semi-structured interview guide to collect qualitative data from Veterans Affairs (VA) facility staff who had experience with test results management and patient safety. SETTING: Twelve VA facilities across the USA. PARTICIPANTS: Facility staff members (n = 27), including clinicians, lab and imaging professionals, nursing staff, patient safety professionals, and leadership. APPROACH: We conducted a content analysis of interview transcripts to identify perceived barriers and high-risk areas for effective test result management, as well as recommendations for improvement. RESULTS: We identified seven themes to guide further development of interventions to improve test result follow-up. Themes related to trainees, incidental findings, tracking systems for electronic health record notifications, outdated contact information, referrals, backup or covering providers, and responsibility for test results pending at discharge. Participants provided recommendations for improvement within each theme. CONCLUSIONS: Perceived barriers and recommendations for improving test result follow-up often reflected previously known problems and their corresponding solutions, which have not been consistently implemented in practice. Better policy solutions and improvement methods, such as quality improvement collaboratives, may bridge the implementation gaps between knowledge and practice.

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