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J Eval Clin Pract. 2010 Dec;16(6):1136-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2753.2009.01282.x.

Doctors' perceptions of laboratory monitoring in office practice.

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Center for Primary Care and Prevention, The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, Pawtucket, RI, USA.



Laboratory monitoring has been increasingly recognized as an important area for improving patient safety in ambulatory care. Little is known about doctors' attitudes towards laboratory monitoring and potential ways to improve it.


Six focus groups and one individual interview with 20 primary care doctors and nine specialists from three Massachusetts communities.


Participants viewed laboratory monitoring as a critical, time-consuming task integral to their practice of medicine. Most believed they commit few laboratory monitoring errors and were surprised at the error rates reported in the literature. They listed various barriers to monitoring, including not knowing which doctor was responsible for ensuring the completion of laboratory monitoring, uncertainty regarding the necessity of monitoring, lack of alerts/reminders and patient non-adherence with recommended monitoring. The primary facilitator of monitoring was ordering laboratory tests while the patient is in the office. Primary care doctors felt more strongly than specialists that computerized alerts could improve laboratory monitoring. Participants wanted to individualize alerts for their practices and warned that alerts must not interrupt work flow or require too many clicks.


Doctors in community practice recognized the potential of computerized alerts to enhance their monitoring protocols for some medications. They viewed patient non-adherence as a barrier to optimal monitoring. Interventions to improve laboratory monitoring should address doctor workflow issues, in addition to patients' awareness of the importance of fulfilling recommended therapeutic monitoring to prevent adverse drug events.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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