New Report: Medical Patient Test Results Left Unread

Diagnostic testing is at the center of many Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits. It is little wonder why. When tests are not ordered, not read, or ignored, patients may suffer preventable harm. It is crucial for these tests to be handled properly at all times. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

A new report released published last week as a research letter in the Archives of Internal Medicine, for example, found troubling problems as they related to tests taken right before a patient leaves the hospital. As summarized in a recent HealthDay story, the study suggests that many patients in need of certain treatment may not receive it in a timely fashion, even though test results indicate the need. When negligence is at the root of the failure to examine the test, then medical malpractice may have been committed if the patient suffers more harm than they otherwise would have.

The scope of the problem is larger than many might guess. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys were surprised to learn that, according to the study, about half of all tests ordered on the day a patient is discharged are never examined. The research involved examination of records from over 6,700 patients. More than 660,000 tests were ordered on those patients–all of whom were at a single metropolitan hospital. Researchers then analyzed the tests to get a feel for how the results were handled.

They found that about 7% of the tests were taken on the day the patient was discharged. While this seems like a small amount, with over 660,000 tests taken on just this research group alone, that means 46,200 tests were taken on discharge day. Half of those test results were never examined by medical professionals.

The researchers summarized the likely reason for this by noting that they “discovered that the chance a test results actually gets looked at has a lot to do with how long it is available for review. At the most extreme, tests that are ordered on the day a patient is discharged from the hospital have the least time to be looked at.”

The situation needs to be improved. Obviously the health of patients is at stake. In addition, significant financial gain can be seen with better monitoring and review of tests. For example, if a problem is caught early, before discharge, then costly hospital readmissions can be cut down on. Right now, many patients may be sent away–or to a nursing home–and then forced to go back to the hospital as a result of problems that could have been caught earlier.

The study authors claimed that some improvements may be seen with electronic medical records. The electronic system may include warnings that trigger to alert a doctor if a test result is in that has yet to be examined.

If you or a loved one may have been hurt by problems with tests not being read or taken, be sure to contact a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at our firm to protect your legal rights. Do not forget that timing matters in these cases, so it is important not to sit on your rights.

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