‘Why don't they ever call?’ Expectations of clinicians and pathologists regarding the communication of critical diagnoses in dermatopathology

J.D. Korbl, B.A. Wood, N.T. Harvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Certain diagnoses in dermatopathology have significant implications for patient management and on occasion appropriate clinical care may be facilitated by a phone call from the reporting dermatopathologist to the referring doctor. Whether this is appropriate depends on a number of factors. The concept of ‘critical diagnoses’ is now well established in surgical pathology, having evolved from critical value policies in clinical pathology and haematology. However, only limited attempts have been made to assess perceptions among different clinical groups. We designed a survey to assess the attitudes of pathologists, dermatologists, surgeons and general practitioners as to what circumstances warrant telephone contact in addition to a standard written report, as well as their approaches to routine histology follow-up. The survey was distributed Australia-wide via a combination of specialist colleges, medical forums and collegiate contacts. A total of 262 responses were received, encompassing representations from all of the targeted specialties. Approximately 20% of respondents were aware of adverse outcomes or ‘near misses’ which they felt had been due in some part to inadequate communication of histopathology results. While most practitioners have formal systems in place to review histopathology reports, this practice is not universal. There were a number clinical situations where there was a discrepancy between the expectations of clinicians and those of pathologists, in particular with regard to a diagnosis of cutaneous melanoma as well as cutaneous lesions which might be associated with inherited cancer syndromes. It is our hope that the results of this study will facilitate discussion between pathologists and referring clinicians at a local level to minimise the potential for miscommunication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-312
Number of pages8
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


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