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Original Investigation
November 12, 2007

Impact of an Automated Test Results Management System on Patients' Satisfaction About Test Result Communication

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Division of General Medicine (Drs Matheny, Gandhi, Orav, Bates, and Poon and Ms Ladak-Merchant) and Decision Systems Group (Dr Matheny), Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; and Department of Quality Assurance, New York–Presbyterian Hospital, New York (Dr Kuperman).

Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(20):2233-2239. doi:10.1001/archinte.167.20.2233

Background  Few reliable and efficient systems support the communication of test results to outpatients, and this may lead to patient dissatisfaction with test result communication. The objective of this study was to assess the impact of physicians' use of a test results management tool embedded in an electronic health record on patient satisfaction with test result communication.

Methods  A prospective, cluster-randomized, controlled trial of 570 patient encounters in 26 outpatient primary care practices was performed from December 1, 2002, to April 31, 2005. Physicians in the intervention practices were trained and given access to a physician test results management tool with imbedded patient notification functions to evaluate whether patient satisfaction with communication of test results ordered by the primary care provider was improved. Patient satisfaction surveys were conducted by telephone after the patient underwent the test and were administered before and after the intervention in both arms.

Results  The survey response rate after successful patient contact was 74.2% (570/768). After adjusting for patient age, sex, race, socioeconomic status, and insurance type, the intervention significantly increased patient satisfaction with test results communication (odds ratio, 2.35; 95% confidence interval, 1.05-5.25; P = .03). In addition, patients in the postintervention group were more satisfied with information given them for medical treatments and conditions regarding their results (odds ratio, 3.45; 95% confidence interval, 1.30-9.17; P = .02).

Conclusion  An automated test results management system can improve patient satisfaction with communication of test results ordered by their primary care provider and can improve patient satisfaction with the communication of information regarding their condition and treatment plans.

Trial Registration  clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00225628