Closing the loop on test results to reduce communication failures: a rapid review of evidence, practice and patient perspectives

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BACKGROUND: Communication failures involving test results contribute to issues of patient harm and sentinel events. This article aims to synthesise review evidence, practice insights and patient perspectives addressing problems encountered in the communication of diagnostic test results. METHODS: The rapid review identified ten systematic reviews and four narrative reviews. Five practitioner interviews identified insights into interventions and implementation, and a citizen panel with 15 participants explored the patient viewpoint. RESULTS: The rapid review provided support for the role of technology to ensure effective communication; behavioural interventions such as audit and feedback could be effective in changing clinician behaviour; and point-of-care tests (bedside testing) eliminate the communication breakdown problem altogether. The practice interviews highlighted transparency, and clarifying the lines of responsibility as central to improving test result communication. Enabling better information sharing, implementing adequate planning and utilising technology were also identified in the practice interviews as viable strategies to improve test result communication. The citizen panel highlighted technology as critical to improving communication of test results to both health professionals and patients. Patients also highlighted the importance of having different ways of accessing test results, which is particularly pertinent when ensuring suitability for vulnerable populations. CONCLUSIONS: This paper draws together multiple perspectives on the problem of failures in diagnostic test results communication to inform appropriate interventions. Across the three studies, technology was identified as the most feasible option for closing the loop on test result communication. However, the importance of clear, consistent communication and more streamlined processes were also key elements that emerged. REVIEW REGISTRATION: The protocol for the rapid review was registered with PROSPERO CRD42018093316 .

Original languageEnglish
Article number897
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2020


  • Communication
  • Diagnostic error
  • Pathology
  • Patient safety
  • Radiology
  • Test results

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