The Case of The Missing Lab Results
By Gunsagar Gulati
Sitting at the front desk of the internal medicine office, I twirled a pencil in one hand and tapped the mouse with the other as I sifted through patient medical records for data on laboratory results. The medical assistant beside me was glued to the phone. I knew I shouldn’t bother her, but I had to know why she was getting so many calls. When she enumerated a seemingly endless list of reasons patients called, what struck me most was that patients were calling to get lab test results.
The week of August 4th
, four medical assistants at the clinic received a total of 19 calls from patients about lab test results, and the week of September 19th
, they received a total of 43 calls. That may not sound like a lot, but this was only the data for four of the many medical assistants at the clinic.
I didn’t think at first that an occasional missing lab result was an issue, but after spending time at the internal medicine office, I was convinced that it was. These missing lab test results burden patients, clinicians, and other staff. It was not only an issue of patient satisfaction, but, more importantly, of quality of care and patient safety.
So as an innovation project with the Harvard PCP chapter
’s Primary Care Innovation Collaborative
last year, I had the opportunity to work under the guidance of Dr. Karen Wood
and administrator Greg Laronde at the Harvard Vanguard Copley Practice to improve how laboratory test results are handled in the clinic.