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Risk Matters: Unsolicited Test Reports

When an unsolicited test result is received regarding an established patient of the practice, it should be handled the same way as one that was personally ordered. Contact the patient, notify the ordering physician, and, if appropriate, arrange for needed follow-up care. Do not automatically assume normal results do not require action, as occasionally results within normal range of the laboratory may not be the expected result for the patient. Additionally, notify the testing facility that the provider is not the ordering physician, and that the result should be delivered to the physician who ordered the test.

If the patient is not known to the provider, there is still a limited duty of care owed to the patient. Much of this obligation would be minimized by confirming with the ordering physician (if possible) that he or she received and addressed the test result. In any event, notify the testing facility that the provider is in receipt of the report in error, and that it should be delivered to the ordering physician. If the report indicates a panic value or grave condition and the provider is not able to confirm the ordering physician is in receipt of the report, an attempt to contact the patient would be appropriate for patient safety considerations.  In both cases, it is important to document all steps taken to correct the error. 

About The Author

Jeffrey A. Woods is the Director of Risk Education in the Risk Education and Evaluation Services Department at SVMIC. Jeff received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Tennessee Martin and his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Following graduation, he practiced law in Knoxville for almost 15 years, advising physicians and healthcare providers and defending them in malpractice claims. He is licensed to practice in Tennessee and all Federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court. He is a member of the Tennessee Bar Association.

Jeff joined SVMIC in 2003 and was a Senior Claims Attorney until 2015 when he transferred to his current position.

The contents of The Sentinel are intended for educational/informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Policyholders are urged to consult with their personal attorney for legal advice, as specific legal requirements may vary from state to state and/or change over time.

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