US primary care doctors frequently fail to inform their patients of abnormal results on important medical tests, a study published Monday has found.
An average of one out of every 14 abnormal tests were either not reported to the patient or else the physicians failed to document that the patient had been informed, the study published in the archives of the Journal of the American Medical Association found.
In some clinics, the failure rate was as high as 26 percent while other practices reported all abnormal tests.
"Testing-related mistakes can lead to serious diagnostic errors," wrote lead author Lawrence Casalino of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.
"There are many steps in the testing process, which extends from ordering a test to providing appropriate follow-up; an error in any one of these steps can have lethal consequences."
Casalino and his team examined the medical records of 5,434 randomly selected patients age 50 to 69 years in 23 primary care practices across the United States.
They identified 1,889 abnormal test results and 135 apparent failures to inform the patient or to document informing the patient -- a rate of 7.1 percent, or about one of every 14 tests.
The highest failure rates were in practices which combined paper and electronic records. There was no significant difference between practices which used only paper or electronic records.