Follow-up of abnormal test results for discharged Emergency Department (ED) patients is a critical safety issue. This study aimed to explore ED physicians' perceptions, practices, and suggestions for improvements of test result follow-up when using an electronic provider order entry system to order all laboratory and radiology tests and view results. Interviews were conducted with seven ED physicians and one clinical information system support person. Interviews were analyzed to elicit key concepts relating to physicians' perceptions of test result follow-up and how the process could be improved. Results described the current electronic test result follow-up system with two paper-based manual back-up systems for microbiology and radiology results. The key issues for physicians were: responsibility for test follow-up; the unique ED environment and time pressures, and the role of the family physician in test result follow-up. The key suggestion for improvement was a complete integrated electronic information system with on-line result endorsement. The study highlighted the complexity of the test result follow-up process and the importance of engaging clinicians in devising solutions for improvements.
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