Critical Values

The “Critical Values Policy” of the University of Chicago Medicine is described below. These values apply to UCM patients as well as the extramural practice administered through UChicago Medical Laboratories. Clients should provide “Critical Value” contact information to UChicago Medical Laboratories to facilitate call-backs.

Critical Value Definition

Critical values are defined as laboratory results that may require rapid clinical attention to avert significant patient morbidity or mortality and therefore must be called immediately to a responsible physician/licensed ordering specified professional/ registered nurse for action.

Critical Value Policy

The critical value; the physician, licensed ordering specified professional, or R.N. to whom the report is given; the time of report; and any other relevant comments become part of the patient's permanent record. Refer to the “Laboratory Critical Value List” document for the list of tests and values requiring communication as per this policy. These analytes, critical values and the reporting procedure have been approved by the UCMC Medical Staff Organization. All critical values should be successfully reported to a responsible physician or registered nurse within 30 minutes of the time the value is known in the laboratory. In all cases delayed beyond 30 minutes, the cause for the delay should be documented.

Procedure for UChicago Medical Laboratories Clients

The laboratory will contact the client location and ask to speak to a responsible caregiver (physician, nurse, or laboratory staff) authorized to receive critical value reports for the client location. If an answering or paging service answers the phone, leave a message for the physician/nurse/laboratory staff to contact the laboratory technologist immediately at the testing laboratory’s telephone number to report a laboratory critical value. The laboratory will ask for a verification read-back of the critical value. The physician, specified professional, or nurse receiving the information will record the information (in the medical record if feasible) and will read back the information to the laboratory for verification.

Critical Values List (PDF)