You’ve Got (Post-Discharge) Mail

An automated email system that notifies both hospitalists and PCPs about post-discharge test results can help ensure results don’t “fall through the cracks,” according to an abstract presented at HM11.

The report, “Design and Implementation of an Automated Email Notification System for Results of Tests Pending at Discharge,” suggests that by providing an automatic email when results are completed, inpatient physicians will be more responsible for the patient, and create a dialogue with primary-care physicians (PCPs) as well. The authors estimate that physicians are aware of 40% of the final results of tests pending at discharge.

“Things fall through the cracks,” says Anuj Dalal, MD, FHM, a hospitalist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “This is a method to make sure these test results don’t fall through the cracks.”

Dr. Dalal’s team created the automatic emails across five services—chemistry, hematology, microbiology, pathology, and radiology—in the past two years. Preliminary data show that the system helps ensure physicians are aware of more test results, but additional research is needed.

Still, Dr. Dalal believes creating an email system at a given institution helps if only by drawing attention to the issue of pending results once a patient has left the hospital. And even if the implementation of the system at a less-wired hospital is difficult, the omnipresence of email should help with adopting.

“Everyone has email today,” he adds.

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