Why provide patient access to imaging and pathology results? A True Story (Disruptive Women in Health Care blog)

As I posted recently, a study has shown that 7.1 % of the time, there’s a failure to inform patients about abnormal test results. In half of practices studied, the policy was, “If you don’t hear from us, your results are normal.”

This story just published in the Disruptive Women in Health Care blog shows what this approach can mean to a patient and their family:

Disruptive Women in Health Care » Blog Archive » Another Reason to Read Your Medical Record – A True Story

In this particular case, it was a pathology result that was not communicated to the patient.

Even though several leading edge health systems now routinely share lab test results with patients online, the regular sharing of radiology (imaging) and pathology test results, especially in an automated fashion, is still uncharted territory. In some states (Caliornia), sharing of some of these types of results with patients online is prohibited by law.

Why are pathology results (ranging from pap smears to biopsies) and imaging results treated differently?

The concerns range from fear of exposing patients to bad news as many of these tests are ordered with a high suspicion of abnormalities, to the lack of comprehensibility of these types of results, which are often not numeric, narrative, and very specific to a patients’ condition.

I put out two Twitter calls to ask about medical groups who have done this (automatically sharing imaging test results with patients), and I think this level of sharing of the medical record, along with the sharing of progress notes, is still anxiety-provoking.

If anyone reading this knows of medical groups who routinely share these types of test results with patients, or are patients where these results are routinely shared online, please post your experiences in the comments.

If you are not getting access to these results routinely in your care and you would like to get them, what would you tell your care team/health system to help them understand the benefit to your care and your health? Here’s what the author of the post on the Disruptive Women in Health Care blog had to say:

Although we may not think it’s our responsibility to read our operative report or a pathology report… it could mean the difference between a good or bad result in the best case scenario, or life and death in the worst case scenario. In the end, your health information is just that…..yours. No one will care more about it, or own it, in quite the same way as you.

Ted Eytan, MD