Improving Your Laboratory Testing Process

A Step-by-Step Guide for Rapid-Cycle Patient Safety and Quality Improvement

The tools in this step-by-step guide can increase the reliability of the testing process in your office by helping you examine how tests are managed.

About 40 percent of patient encounters in primary care offices involve some form of medical test. Studies of primary care offices consistently show that the process for managing tests is a significant source of error and patient harm. This step-by-step guide can help you increase the reliability of the testing process in your office.

The tools will help you examine how tests are managed in your office, from the moment tests are ordered until the patient is notified of the test results and the appropriate follow up is determined.

Use of the Guide

This guide (PDF, 4.48 MB) tells you how to:

  • Assess your office testing process, patient experience, and documentation.
  • Plan for improvements.
  • Implement change.
  • Re-assess. (Did we improve?)

Toolkit Development

This toolkit was developed by the University of Colorado: Colorado ACTION Partnership as part of an AHRQ initiative to improve ambulatory care safety. The purpose of the project was to evaluate and develop a step-by-step guide to improve the usability, practicality, and usefulness of a 2013 AHRQ toolkit, Improving Your Office Testing Process, developed by Dr. Milton "Mickey" Eder and his team.

The Colorado team first improved toolkit usability using stakeholder engagement and iterative design methods. Then the team pilot tested the revised toolkit and evaluated its implementation in two primary care practices, a small internal medicine practice and a large family medicine residency practice.

Page last reviewed January 2018
Page originally created January 2018
Internet Citation: Improving Your Laboratory Testing Process. Content last reviewed January 2018. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.