August 17, 2012

Get Your Medical Test Results

This is a topic I have advocated for with patients since shortly after diagnosis. I am not sure why, but many people are pushing back and saying they don't need copies of their laboratory results. I am guessing many that are older than I am have passively followed their doctor and do not have any idea or care what the results are. They trust their doctor to inform them if something is out of normal or prescribe a pill to correct the problem. This implicit trust may be earned, but I can't help but wonder if this is a wise course of action considering many patients only see their doctor for 10 to 15 minutes per appointment and many only see the doctor twice a year.

Even patients younger than myself put me off saying they don't need them. To this I ask if they know what the trends are in their test results. Are they holding steady, heading downward, or heading in the wrong direction. No one can answer me. Yes, people do seem to be tired of me and my talking about test results and getting copies of them.

Well, one of my acquaintances found out the hard way this last week. He was lucky his wife just happened to forget something needed for her job and came back to get it. He had collapsed on the kitchen floor and was unresponsive when she found him. She called 911 and then he was airlifted to another hospital. He will not be home for some time as his doctors say the normal stay is in excess of two weeks, and with his condition on arrival, they are estimating a longer stay.

Turns out his doctor had overlooked a key test result that would have prevented this and a supplement and medication would have corrected it without being hospitalized. What the wife found out from the hospital after they had requested a copy of the lab results was that the key note was on a page two and the doctor had thrown page two by mistake. Most lab reports are on one page unless they are noted page 1 of x pages at the bottom and this one had nothing. Even most one-page lab reports say page 1 of 1.

The doctors even talked to the wife about making sure that they get copies of all lab reports and other test reports. She asked why and was told that this was so they as patients might spot something the doctor(s) may miss. They stated that they would take the time to discuss the lab results with them, how to read them, what to look for, and how to track the results. The wife still isn't sure she wants lab reports? At least the husband now wants the test results.

My doctors know me and that I will be asking for a copy. Normally they like to cover them with me and they know I will be entering them into a spreadsheet, and even graphing them. From what I am reading, many people need to go in several days before the appointment to have the blood drawn or give a urine sample and then obtain the test results at their appointment. I seem to be different than most as I go in about 30 minutes or more ahead of my appointment and have this done and receive the results at my appointment. Yes, occasionally a test is done from the already drawn blood sample, and I am told this. I always request a mailed copy when it is given to the doctor or some will email a copy of the test results. If I don't receive either within seven working days, I call the doctor's office and ask. If I am told something like it is in the mail, I make a point of going to the office and asking for a copy.

Trisha Torrey at about dot com wrote about this back in early April and this is very important in today's medicine when doctor's do not have the time to make phone calls and do not use technology except for the records and at home for personal use. Thinking that a test was normal because you received no call can be life ending in today's medicine. Doctors today do not have the time that our doctors in the past had.

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