Health information technology (HIT) is implicated in many of the missed test result follow-ups that lead to outpatient diagnostic delays, according to a new study of root cause analysis (RCA) data from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Such delays have been shown to threaten patient safety by causing the treatment of serious conditions such as lung and breast cancer to be postponed.

Whereas computer hardware and software issues were responsible for some of these errors, most safety concerns involved "sociotechnical factors" associated with people, workflow and communication, and a poorly designed human-computer interface.

The five key high-risk areas for diagnostic delays were managing electronic health record (EHR) inbox notifications and communication, clinicians gathering key diagnostic information, technical problems, data entry problems, and the failure of a system to track test results.

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