Risk Management Tip: Communicating and Following Up on Critical Patient Test Results

By Tammie Smeltz, Content Marketing Manager

Not long ago, patients would have to wait days to learn test results and discuss them with a healthcare provider. Since the passing of the 21st Century Cures Act, patients have been able to obtain quick and easy access to their healthcare records.

According to a new study published in JAMA Network Open, the majority of patients in the study preferred to receive their test results through the patient portal prior to discussing the results with their provider.

Although patients have access to their clinical notes and test results, it is still imperative that healthcare providers communicate and follow-up on critical test results. Failure to communicate patient test results can lead to a delay or failure in diagnosis and resultant injuries, placing the healthcare provider at an increased risk for professional liability claims.

MLMIC recognizes the importance of communicating patient test results and has developed several risk management tips to protect your practice. Below are a few of our recommendations.

Recommendations for Communicating and Following Up on Critical Test Results

  1. All ordered tests must be documented in the patient’s medical records.
  2. A process should be in place to confirm and document the receipt of test results. Many electronic health record systems allow practices to efficiently track pending laboratory and diagnostic studies.
  3. All incoming laboratory reports and diagnostic tests must be reviewed and authenticated by the provider.
  4. Patients should be advised of all test results, normal or abnormal. This communication should be documented in the medical record.

In addition, your practice should have policies and procedures in place for the management of test results. The healthcare provider who orders the test is responsible for ensuring that the results have been received and reviewed.

To review all our recommendations for communicating and following up on critical test results click here.

MLMIC insureds can contact our Risk Management Department at RMCconsultants@mlmic.com to obtain a copy of the checklist relating to this tip.

Additional information regarding strategies to mitigate risks related to documentation, communication and follow-up can be found here.

MLMIC policyholders can reach our 24/7 emergency support services for questions regarding communication or documentation by calling (844)-667-5291. You can also submit a specific question by sending an email request here.


  1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2802672
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10329851/

This document is for general purposes only and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This document is not comprehensive and does not cover all possible factual circumstances. Because the facts applicable to your situation may vary, or the laws applicable in your jurisdiction may differ, please contact your attorney or other professional advisors for any questions related to legal, medical or professional obligations, the applicable state or federal laws or other professional questions.

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