US doctors do not inform patients about test results that are abnormal in at least 7.1% of cases, according to a new research published in the June 2009 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Researchers from New York’s Weill Cornell Medical College evaluated medical records of more than 5,000 patients aged 50–69 years from 23 healthcare centres across the US.

Not conveying the test results affected the patient’s chances of survival by delaying their treatment, and made the doctors more prone to malpractice lawsuits, the research found.

The study found that health centres that had a mix of paper and electronic records had the highest failure rates and the ones with better test result management procedures reported lower rates.

Most of the primary care facilities that were evaluated did not have a basic test processing protocol or a defined policy to communicate test results to patients, the researchers said.

Experts recommended adoption of proactive patient vigilance to keep track of personal medical information, especially when changing care settings.