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An Introduction to Critical Test Results Management (CTRM): Caring Through Technology

Healthcare is a vital industry in every country and nation. As new technology emerged, the healthcare industry became one of those that maximized its use to benefit many. The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act was enacted in 2005 to answer the increasing patient safety issues in the USA. It aims to encourage healthcare facilities to report patient safety concerns, which might pave the way to improve patient care.

To increase this cause, developers, in coordination with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), created software to assist hospitals and other healthcare centers in ensuring proper communication within the healthcare system. It is known as CTRM or critical test results management software

Others know CTRM as closed-loop reporting. CTRM software helps avoid miscommunication of critical results, which can significantly increase patient safety and ensure the proper delivery of results to the involved healthcare professionals.

The Heart in High-Tech Caring

Source: Pexels

CTRM software targets one of the core of the healthcare system, diagnostics. The US hospitals alone process about twelve billion results for laboratory, radiology, and cardio tests every year. Most have benign or negative results, which means there is no need for the patient to have urgent consultation with a referring clinician. This kind of outcome is what we look forward to, right? 

Unfortunately, according to a medical survey, about one to five percent of a healthcare facility’s test volume comes out as critical. It means that an urgent referral for immediate consultation and treatment is necessary. Facilities have a moral, legal, and ethical responsibility to ensure that the critical results have been relayed to the attending physician to guarantee continuous patient care. Fortunately, we have new medical technology and smart systems, such as the CTRM software to monitor and close the loop.

Conventional Approach: The Flaw in the System

Conventional systems to relay and manage critical results have flaws. Typical approaches include:

  • Manual phone calls: This approach is still widely used in many healthcare facilities worldwide. There is no assurance that someone will answer the phone call soon and that the correct person will answer it. Contact information can change without notifying hospitals and medical facilities. Diagnostic departments might not have updated contact information, which will yield to unanswered calls.
  • Faxed messages: Sending a diagnostic report thru fax is still a common practice in some institutions where internet access is always a challenge. Unfortunately, most facilities in the urban area use more advanced means of communication. Sending it via fax will cause more delay if the message is overlooked.

These flawed approaches to communicate critical test results are why CTRM software creation and development happened. According to JCAHO, almost 85% of radiology court cases started in miscommunication.

How Does CTRM Work?

Critical test results management or CTMR software follows a new model of communication. It uses modern technology to automate the test results reporting process. This intelligent solution fosters patient safety and boosts productivity among diagnostic professionals, such as radiologists, medical technologists, etc. But how does it work?

One popular paradigm is a workflow engine designed for the radiology department. It is first used in a hospital in Ohio. This radiology paradigm aims to enhance critical results notification and lower the interference of the communication workflow. 

According to studies conducted using this CTRM paradigm, there was a 15% increase in monitoring, documentation, and notification workflow without compromising the turnaround time to complete the entire test result reporting process. As a result, it alleviated some challenges of communication for radiologists and other medical professionals. 

Let us show you how CTRM works using scenarios. For example, a referring physician requests for a STAT (urgent) study. The software will automatically forward the results to a group of human operators using the internet. An available operator will create a case and will relay the test report via phone to the attending physician who ordered the test. This scenario applies to normal or negative results.

On the other hand, a diagnostic professional can place an instant message to any operator within the CTRM system for a critical test result case. The operator will immediately place each phone call to the referring physician and will connect the diagnostic professional and clinicians involved. In cases of a critical test result, the CTRM prioritizes the cases to shorten the waiting time to communicate the result, thus making it possible for fast treatment. 

Human Touch: The Secret to CTRM Success

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Human interaction is the secret to why critical test results management works. Hospitals and healthcare facilities can reach out to file room staff, medical transcriptionists, and other medical clerks to monitor the CTRM software system for faster communication.

Anything related to the healthcare system needs a human touch. Elimination of this factor can result in suboptimal patient care. Why? Even with the aid of the most intelligent software, patients are humans who need human intervention. 

Why Do You Need CTRM Software?

A burdened diagnostic professional will not be able to maintain a closed-loop to every test result case handled. The flow of communication for continuous patient care is vital. An interruption in the loop might lead to a different prognosis and treatment for the patient. It is the primary reason why having CTRM software will increase patient care and safety.

Moreover, according to a survey in an Ohio hospital, diagnostic professionals, particularly radiologists, stated the need to document the communication to test results to the attending physician. To ensure proper documentation without the risk for human error, the utilization of a reliable and tested system is essential. For decades of healthcare lawsuits, attending physicians claimed that the patient’s critical test results were not communicated to them, hence the treatment gap.

As discussed earlier, practicing the traditional approach alone to communicate the critical test results can lead to a waste of time and effort. CTRM is the solution to the interrupted workflow. It helps diagnostic professionals to forward the critical test result without the risk of overlooking their other responsibilities. 

Through CTRM and its support software, diagnostic personnel can simply categorize the test result as critical. The file room clerk or transcriptionist who keeps watch of the worklist will immediately communicate the report to the appropriate physician in the most efficient way possible. Physicians enrolled in the system can tag which communication approach they will be able to respond faster. By having a software system, the healthcare facility will have permanent documentation of the test result and how it was communicated to the proper persons involved.

The Wonder of Testing and Integration

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Like any other software, it is crucial to have your CTRM software tested before its launch. Setting aside the financial repercussions, a flawed software with errors and bugs becomes a matter of life and death in a healthcare setting. One error can cause gaps in the communication of critical test results, which can hinder the proper communication workflow from the diagnostic department to the appropriate physician. Investing in adequate software testing will solve this concern.

Additionally, the integration of CTRM software with other hospital information systems can increase workflow implementation. However, take note that not all software can automatically do full integration. The aim is to further incorporate all diagnostic test results, such as radiology scans and lab reports, in one system for faster and more efficient communication. 

For example, using an integrated CTRM system, the radiologist can tag a result as a critical finding, and the system will automatically place an alert to the hospital system. This alert can send notifications to the parties involved, including the referring physician, the clinician, and the nurse assigned. Moreover, since the CTRM is integrated with the hospital system, you can type in the patient’s name or reference code to see its communication history. 

Patient safety can also be assured through the CTRM permanent logging system. Once a physician signs in his name that results are communicated and well-received, the electronic signature with the date is permanently registered and cannot be edited anymore.

CTRM is a Stress-Free IT Management

Unlike other healthcare-focused software, CTRM is an IT lightweight system. Most are independent software, which can do integration on other software but not required. The IT infrastructure and processes are uncomplicated. Users do not need in-depth training and education before using it. 

Healthcare systems that have CTRM claim that a five-minute introduction on how to use it is enough for physicians, diagnostic professionals, file room clerks, transcriptionists, and all involved. However, the frequent referrers and the heads of diagnostic departments need additional training on email or message sending, simple troubleshooting, and role assignments.

The Future of CTRM

Similar to other software solutions, CTRM is not a perfect system and may have minor flaws. Nevertheless, developers are continuously improving the system. Plus, having it undergo testing helps to pinpoint errors. According to reports, CTRM developers are looking into incorporating a voice recognition capability to the system and other EMR solutions to increase productivity. 

Conclusion: Fostering the Success of Healthcare Communication Through CTRM

CTRM software is a great tool to ensure effective communication in a healthcare set-up. While the software system manages the course, the human intervention also plays a vital role in its success. 

What’s best in this system is that it has become the key to addressing significant issues in fast and urgent responses to critical test results. And as its development continues to make the system better, patient safety and an efficient healthcare workforce also improve. Don’t you think investing in one is an excellent idea?

Author’s Bio

Patrick is a software specialist who has exposure to various kinds of software projects. On the side, he pens articles on software development and its importance to all kinds of industries.

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