BACKGROUND: Although the number of blood tests ordered in primary care continues to increase, efficient systems for the communication of blood test results to patients are lacking. This is a concern in terms of both patient safety and patient satisfaction.
AIM: To gain an understanding of patient perspectives on organisational and technological aspects of current and prospective systems for communicating laboratory test results in primary care, and the influences that impact patients' preferred methods for receiving results.
DESIGN AND SETTING: Qualitative study using patient focus groups in four primary care practices in Birmingham, UK.
METHOD: The primary care practices were purposively selected to ensure they varied in size, socioeconomic environment, and the default pathways they used to communicate test results. A total of 26 patients from the four practices who had had a recent blood test were recruited. Over a 6 month period in 2011, six, 1-hour focus groups were conducted at the four practices involved in the study.
RESULTS: Patients expressed a preference for receiving results from the ordering GP or a clinically qualified member of staff. Suggestions for refining current systems included improved access to phlebotomy appointments, better management of patient telephone calls, and a clear, accessible protocol for the communication of results.
CONCLUSION: Despite the testing and result communication process being a core activity in primary care, it was found that practices could improve their service in a number of areas. Patients described frequent delays and inconsistency in both the level of information and the method of communication, as well as dissatisfaction with non-clinical staff relaying results. Patient preferences for result communication based on their experience of current systems have produced practical suggestions to improve processes.