An audit on the reporting of critical results in a tertiary institute
Background: Critical result reporting is a requirement for accreditation by accreditation bodies worldwide. Accurate, prompt communication of results to the clinician by the laboratory is of extreme importance. Repeating of the critical result by the recipient has been used as a means to improve the accuracy of notification. Our objective was to assess the accuracy of notification of critical chemical pathology laboratory results telephoned out to clinicians/clinical areas. We hypothesize that read-back of telephoned critical laboratory results by the recipient may improve the accuracy of the notification. Methods: This was a prospective study, where all critical results telephoned by chemical pathologists and registrars at Tygerberg Hospital were monitored for one month. The recipient was required to repeat the result (patient name, folder number and test results). Any error, as well as the designation of the recipient was logged. Results: Of 472 outgoing telephone calls, 51 errors were detected (error rate 10.8%). Most errors were made when recording the folder number (64.7%), with incorrect patient name being the lowest (5.9%). Calls to the clinicians had the highest error rate (20%), most of them being the omission of recording folder numbers. Conclusion: Our audit highlights the potential errors during the post-analytical phase of laboratory testing. The importance of critical result reporting is still poorly recognized in South Africa. Implementation of a uniform accredited practice for communication of critical results can reduce error and improve patient safety.