Don’t Test Your Patient’s Patience When It Comes To Test Results

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Medical tests are always nerve-wracking. Results like these can, after all, often determine our future more than even our exam results. And yet, it’s astounding how many healthcare centers fail to treat results with the care that they deserve. An astounding amount of patients report having to chase up or even go without test results altogether. Many even make the mistake of assuming everything is okay because they haven’t heard anything, which can lead to extreme worsening of unchecked conditions.

If you want to develop the best reputation for your facility, then you need to take care when it comes to how you handle and process samples and results. Admittedly, you will be somewhat limited here by the lab which completes tests for you. Still, taking the following steps can make sure you stand above the healthcare crowd with results your patients can rely on.

Make sure samples are treated right before arriving at the lab

Often, test result issues occur due to improper treatment of samples before arrival at the lab. Perhaps the most common problem here is the incorrect labeling of a sample. In general, you need to make sure that everything from patient name to test type is printed on each vial. It’s also worth noting that many labs will not test a sample if it doesn’t come with a qualified signature. These might seem like small things, but they could sabotage a test and leave a patient lost without any clue. Make sure, then, that you train all staff in proper labeling for every single sample.

Equally, the way that you treat samples before their arrival can have a significant impact on whether results are even produced. Contamination of any kind is a real no-go as a lab will be unable to achieve reliable results. Equally, proper storage in a medical fridge from companies like Ethicheck Ltd is vital for making sure samples arrive in the right state. Make sure, then, that you also train every member of your team in how to properly seal samples, and how to store them.

Be clear on timelines

Doctors tend to be hazy when it comes to timelines about results. Some may advise patients of waiting periods between 2-5 days. That’s pretty broad and can make it difficult for a patient to understand what they can expect. Not to mention that leaving times open like this could make it easy for you to lose track. 

By comparison, setting a clear timeline should help you and your patient to keep on top. If you know a sample should be ready in five days, for instance, you can make a note to chase it up if you haven’t heard anything. Equally, your patient will be able to relax a little during the wait and know precisely when to call up if they haven’t heard anything. In short; this takes a whole load of the guesswork out of the process, and it could work wonders for your reputation.

Admittedly, you may need to put a little groundwork into making this assurance possible. Timing is primarily out of your hands once samples leave your facility, after all. Still, partnering with a lab who are specific about test times can go a long way. Equally, seeking a small-scale lab which can produce results faster might work best for faster turnover.

Securely store informationIt’s not fair to put the entire blame for test results on your lab of choice. The fact is that many medical centers are responsible for losing test results even after they come back. Letters can get lost in the mail, or files can vanish on computers. In some cases, something as simple as overlooking an email can lead to significant issues here. 

To make sure this doesn’t happen, it’s vital that you consider how you store patient information. For one, you need secure and easy-to-manage systems in place to make sure that you never lose track of patient information. It may also be worth considering automation of your systems. This way, letters can go out to patients the second you get their results back, all without any room for human error. Even just implementing a system which can automatically collate details from emails into surgery calendars could do the trick here. 

Either way; you want to be sure that there’s never any risk of overlooking something a patient has waited weeks to hear about. That would be a significant downfall, and it could well see your surgery struggling to stay afloat in the future. 

Prioritize patient contact

As mentioned, an automated letter sending system is perhaps the best and most reliable option for reporting test results. You should certainly find that this helps you keep communications open in the case of test results which show nothing worrying.

That said, most healthcare professionals do prefer to speak one-on-one with patients who don’t have such positive news. No patient wants to receive a letter advising them to book an appointment, after all. You can stop this from happening by making sure to take the time to contact these patients in person.

If you’re pushed for time, it might be worth getting your receptionist to call up with a standard message like, ‘we’ve received your test results and are wondering when you could come in for an appointment.’ This shouldn’t send anyone into an unnecessary panic. 

If at all possible, though, you should prioritize contacting patients yourself or getting their primary carer to do so. Setting aside an hour or so a day for this task can make a massive difference to the patient experience. It also shows everyone on your books that you’re willing to go above and beyond for their needs. That’s sure to work in your favor.

There’s no denying that test results can be tricky beasts. Many healthcare professionals would even refer to them as a bee in their bonnets. But, once you develop systems which work here, it’s incredible how much better your entire patient experience will be.


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