Appl Clin Inform 2018; 09(02): 403-410
DOI: 10.1055/s-0038-1653967
Research Article
Schattauer GmbH Stuttgart

How Do Experienced Physicians Access and Evaluate Laboratory Test Results for the Chronic Patient? A Qualitative Analysis

Torbjørn Torsvik
1  Department of Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Norwegian EPR Research Centre, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Børge Lillebo
2  Department of Circulation and Medical Imaging, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Morten Hertzum
3  Department of Information Studies, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
› Institutsangaben
Funding The project is supported by The Liaison Committee for education, research, and innovation in Central Norway (Reference:2015/1459).
Weitere Informationen


08. November 2017

07. April 2018

06. Juni 2018 (online)


Background Electronic health records may present laboratory test results in a variety of ways. Little is known about how the usefulness of different visualizations of laboratory test results is influenced by the complex and varied process of clinical decision making.

Objective The purpose of this study was to investigate how clinicians access and utilize laboratory test results when caring for patients with chronic illness.

Methods We interviewed 10 attending physicians about how they access and assess laboratory tests when following up patients with chronic illness. The interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed qualitatively.

Results Informants preferred different visualizations of laboratory test results, depending on what aspects of the data they were interested in. As chronic patients may have laboratory test results that are permanently outside standardized reference ranges, informants would often look for significant change, rather than exact values. What constituted significant change depended on contextual information (e.g., the results of other investigations, intercurrent diseases, and medical interventions) spread across multiple locations in the electronic health record. For chronic patients, the temporal relations between data could often be of special interest. Informants struggled with finding and synthesizing fragmented information into meaningful overviews.

Conclusion The presentation of laboratory test results should account for the large variety of associated contextual information needed for clinical comprehension. Future research is needed to improve the integration of the different parts of the electronic health record.

Authors' Contributions

Conception and design of the study: T.T., B.L., and M.H. Data collection: T.T. and B.L. Data analysis and interpretation: T.T., B.L., and M.H. Drafting and revising the article for important intellectual content: T.T., B.L., and M.H. Approving the final version of the submission: T.T., B.L., and M.H.

Protection of Human and Animal Subjects

The study protocol was approved by the Norwegian Center for Research Data (NSD, 45615/3/HIT). All informants gave their informed consent prior to interviews.