Like most physicians, Dr. Ben Crocker at the Ambulatory Practice of the Future in Boston used to see his patients first and then send them to the lab after their appointments. As the results came back he reviewed each one individually. When all test results returned, he would write a letter to the patient or try to reach them by phone. This often required him to relearn the scenario for which the labs were ordered, and did not provide an opportunity for important face-to-face counseling on certain medical conditions. It was common for patients to call back with questions about their results that they did not understand from the letter or phone message.
The system of post-visit lab testing required handling each test result individually as it was released from the lab. Dr. Crocker was awash in results as multiple lab results from multiple patients returned to his inbox individually and were intermingled with other messages. He realized that it was not only a lot of work for him and for his staff to sort through and manage the data as it arrived piecemeal, it was inconvenient for the patient and it prevented him from being able to discuss the test results with the patient at the visit.
Upon this realization, Dr. Crocker and his practice instituted point-of-care pre-visit laboratory testing. The practice then compared the number of follow-up phone calls and letters from before and after implementation of the system. Pre-visit lab testing reduced the number of phone calls to the practice by 89 percent and reduced the number of letters sent to patients about lab results by 85 percent. There were significantly fewer (61 percent) revisits due to abnormal tests and fewer lab tests (21 percent) ordered overall since the results were reported in real time. This saved the practice $25 per visit in physician and staff time. Importantly, patient satisfaction with their care also increased.