“The Power of the Microbiology Report Comment”

If you give an educational talk, with the aim of changing people’s behaviour, then assuming your case is well presented and argued, you are likely to succeed.

But only temporarily…..

The problem with one-off educational initiatives is in their failure to make a sustained change in behaviour. For example if you are trying to encourage clinicians to switch from method A to method B to diagnose disease X, then an educational talk may have an initial effect, but unless there is a clear incentive for sustainability, people tend to drift back to old habits…

So what are the secrets to sustaining a change in behaviour? All of the following are options:

  • Make it cheaper.
  • Make it better.
  • Make it the easier option.
  • Make it the only option.
  • Constant encouragement….

It is the last point of constant encouragement where the power of the report comment comes into effect. If on every result report, a comment is added to the effect “This disease is optimally diagnosed using method B”, then the requestors will get a recurring yet subtle reminder of what the laboratory would like them to do.

Other such examples might include:

  • Please provide appropriate Clinical Details for Microbiology Test Requests.
  • This micro-organism is best treated with antibiotic X.
  • The optimal sample for this test is Y
  • Laboratory testing is rarely useful in the management of this condition.
  • One sample is sufficient for the diagnosis of condition Z.

and many many more….

Most laboratory systems now have functionality that allows them to add comments to result reports, either automatically, semi-automatically (with a coded comment) or manually.

Don’t under-estimate the power of a well worded report comment to influence future behaviour of the requestor. The continuous reinforcement induces a slow but sustained change in people’s thinking. Personally I have used them to good effect and plan to further increase the use and range of report comments. They are worth more than most presentations, no matter how well they are given….


Click here for another article on tailored reporting.


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