Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 118–124 | Cite as

Test Result Management Practices of Canadian Internal Medicine Physicians and Trainees

  • Thomas BodleyEmail author
  • Janice L. Kwan
  • John Matelski
  • Patrick J. Darragh
  • Peter Cram



Missed test results are a cause of medical error. Few studies have explored test result management in the inpatient setting.


To examine test result management practices of general internal medicine providers in the inpatient setting, examine satisfaction with practices, and quantify self-reported delays in result follow-up.


Cross-sectional survey.


General internal medicine attending physicians and trainees (residents and medical students) at three Canadian teaching hospitals.

Main Measures

Methods used to track test results; satisfaction with these methods; personal encounters with results respondents “wish they had known about sooner.”

Key Results

We received surveys from 33/51 attendings and 99/108 trainees (response rate 83%). Only 40.9% of respondents kept a record of all tests they order, and 50.0% had a system to ensure ordered tests were completed. Methods for tracking test results included typed team sign-out lists (40.7%), electronic health record (EHR) functionality (e.g., the electronic “inbox”) (38.9%), and personal written or typed lists (14.8%). Almost all trainees (97.9%) and attendings (81.2%) reported encountering at least one test result they “wish they had known about sooner” in the past 2 months (p = 0.001). A higher percentage of attendings kept a record of tests pending at hospital discharge compared to trainees (75.0% vs. 35.7%, p < 0.001), used EHR functionality to track tests (71.4% vs. 27.5%, p = 0.004), and reported higher satisfaction with result management (42.4% vs. 12.1% satisfied or very satisfied, p < 0.001).


Canadian physicians report an array of problems managing test results in the inpatient setting. In the context of prior studies from the outpatient setting, our study suggests a need to develop interventions to prevent missed results and avoid potential patient harms.


electronic health records care transitions hospital medicine 


Prior Presentations

Preliminary data were presented at the Society of General Internal Medicine Annual Meeting, Washington DC, April 19–22, 2017.

Funding Information

PC was supported by a K24 award from NIAMS (AR062133) at the US NIH.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

11606_2018_4656_MOESM1_ESM.docx (25 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 25 kb)


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Bodley
    • 1
    Email author
  • Janice L. Kwan
    • 1
    • 2
  • John Matelski
    • 2
  • Patrick J. Darragh
    • 1
    • 3
  • Peter Cram
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of MedicineUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Division of General Internal MedicineSinai Health System and University Health NetworkTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of MedicineMichael Garron HospitalTorontoCanada

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