Impact of an automated email notification system for results of tests pending at discharge: a cluster-randomized controlled trial.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Background and objective

Physician awareness of the results of tests pending at discharge (TPADs) is poor. We developed an automated system that notifies responsible physicians of TPAD results via secure, network email. We sought to evaluate the impact of this system on self-reported awareness of TPAD results by responsible physicians, a necessary intermediary step to improve management of TPAD results.


We conducted a cluster-randomized controlled trial at a major hospital affiliated with an integrated healthcare delivery network in Boston, Massachusetts. Adult patients with TPADs who were discharged from inpatient general medicine and cardiology services were assigned to the intervention or usual care arm if their inpatient attending physician and primary care physician (PCP) were both randomized to the same study arm. Patients of physicians randomized to discordant study arms were excluded. We surveyed these physicians 72 h after all TPAD results were finalized. The primary outcome was awareness of TPAD results by attending physicians. Secondary outcomes included awareness of TPAD results by PCPs, awareness of actionable TPAD results, and provider satisfaction.


We analyzed data on 441 patients. We sent 441 surveys to attending physicians and 353 surveys to PCPs and received 275 and 152 responses from 83 different attending physicians and 112 different PCPs, respectively (attending physician survey response rate of 63%). Intervention attending physicians and PCPs were significantly more aware of TPAD results (76% vs 38%, adjusted/clustered OR 6.30 (95% CI 3.02 to 13.16), p<0.001; 57% vs 33%, adjusted/clustered OR 3.08 (95% CI 1.43 to 6.66), p=0.004, respectively). Intervention attending physicians tended to be more aware of actionable TPAD results (59% vs 29%, adjusted/clustered OR 4.25 (0.65, 27.85), p=0.13). One hundred and eighteen (85%) and 43 (63%) intervention attending physician and PCP survey respondents, respectively, were satisfied with this intervention.


Automated email notification represents a promising strategy for managing TPAD results, potentially mitigating an unresolved patient safety concern.

Clinical trial registration (NCT01153451).

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Dalal, AK; Roy, CL; Poon, EG; Williams, DH; Nolido, N; Yoon, C; Budris, J; Gandhi, T; Bates, DW; Schnipper, JL

Published Date

  • May 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 21 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 473 - 480

PubMed ID

  • 24154834

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC3994865

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1527-974X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1067-5027

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1136/amiajnl-2013-002030


  • eng