Background: Communicating abnormal results to requesting clinicians is an essential part of clinical authorisation. Guidance from the Royal College of Pathologists on communication of critical/unexpected results is issued as ‘advice to pathologists’. The 2017 guidelines advise rapid communication of serum potassium results ≤2.5 mmol/L and ≥6.5 mmol/L. Little is known about what happens after the results have been communicated. We wished to establish answers to the following questions: Are phoned results acted on? If so, when? What is the outcome of any action taken?
Methods: A prospective study of primary care potassium results authorised out of hours was undertaken. Potassium requests from primary care were retrieved from the laboratory information management system. The potassium result was recorded, along with other data. Data were analysed for potassium results that were validated out of hours (18:00 h–08:00 h).
Results: Over six months, 220 potassium results <3.1 mmol/L and >5.9 mmol/L from primary care were validated out of hours. A subset of these (27) were phoned to the general practice out of hours ‘hub’, and 16 patients referred to hospital out of hours, on account of the potassium results. The remaining potassium results phoned out of hours were acted on subsequently.
Conclusions: Critical potassium results were phoned urgently and are acted on, although not always out of hours. For potassium results phoned out of hours, the most frequent action was to refer to hospital out of hours. Different actions occurred for similar potassium results, reflecting the fact that actions taken and their urgency depend on the patient, the clinician and the practice policy for handling results.
- clinical studies
- Laboratory management
- laboratory methods