Reducing Delay in Diagnosis: Multistage Recommendation Tracking.
AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2017 Nov;209(5):970-975. doi: 10.2214/AJR.17.18332. Epub 2017 Jul 25. Wandtke B1, Gallagher S2.
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to determine whether a multistage tracking system could improve communication between health care providers, reducing the risk of delay in diagnosis related to inconsistent communication and tracking of radiology follow-up recommendations.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Unconditional recommendations for imaging follow-up of all diagnostic imaging modalities excluding mammography (n = 589) were entered into a database and tracked through a multistage tracking system for 13 months. Tracking interventions were performed for patients for whom completion of recommended follow-up imaging could not be identified 1 month after the recommendation due date. Postintervention compliance with the follow-up recommendation required examination completion or clinical closure (i.e., biopsy, limited life expectancy or death, or subspecialist referral).
RESULTS: Baseline radiology information system checks performed 1 month after the recommendation due date revealed timely completion of 43.1% of recommended imaging studies at our institution before intervention. Three separate tracking interventions were studied, showing effectiveness between 29.0% and 57.8%. The multistage tracking system increased the examination completion rate to 70.5% (a 52% increase) and reduced the rate of unknown follow-up compliance and the associated risk of delay in diagnosis to 13.9% (a 74% decrease). Examinations completed after tracking intervention generated revenue of 4.1 times greater than the labor cost.
CONCLUSION: Performing sequential radiology recommendation tracking interventions can substantially reduce the rate of unknown follow-up compliance and add value to the health system. Unknown follow-up compliance is a risk factor for delay in diagnosis, a form of preventable medical error commonly identified in malpractice claims involving radiologists and office-based practitioners.