Doctor never saw patient’s lab results – The Irish Times (What if the patient and their family had?)

This is one of two posts today about the potential for patients and their families having access to lab test results at the same time their doctors do. I’ve written several posts about this on this blog, which you can track here.

This post and the one that is about to follow touch on the next frontier of sharing data with patients:

  1. Results of tests in the hospital (most portals now focus on the outpatient setting)
  2. Results of imaging and pathology tests (there is greater anxiety about these than lab tests e.g. most blood work)

For the story below, see if you think it would be useful for family members to have access to results of tests run in the hospital. If you are or have been a patient or a family member of a patient that does have access to inpatient results information, please post in the comments, along with any other thoughts you might have, of course.

Doctor never saw patient’s lab results – The Irish Times – Sat, Jul 03, 2010

Mary Dolan (81), Castlerea, Co Roscommon, died on February 20th, 2009. She had attended the hospital for an operation to remove gall stones and had developed pancreatitis.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell was told yesterday that statements had been received by counsel for Ms Dolan’s family, Ciarán Craven, from the hospital’s legal representative.

Mr Craven said the lab results for the amylase test, an enzyme that indicates pancreatitis if present in high levels, were phoned in on the morning after Ms Dolan had been tested. They indicated she had more than 30 times the normal level of amylase in her system.

The results were received by 11am and put on the hospital’s computer, but the doctor treating Ms Dolan never saw them, Mr Craven said.



This is both a great example of the reasons that patients should have access to their lab results (and those of their loved ones) both in the hospital and outside. It's also a great example, though, of why consumers need to see more than just the results–they need the assessment of the impact and the education about why the test is done to help them understand the issue. The amylase level–even if significantly higher than the normal range–would not alone suggest that it was a critical risk factor for the surgery.

[…] Article Ted Eytan, MD, 6 July 2010 SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "Doctor never saw patient’s lab results – The Irish Times (What if the patient and their family had?)", url: "" }); […]

Hi Jan,

Well stated – as you mention, the data should be the starting point of a conversation, which should give context and ideas for action. Sometimes the "why?" question can be lifesaving; you've been really good at pointing out the value of actionable information, not just information by itself. Thanks for taking a look,


This story is a good example of why having access to your own test results is critical, and should be expected by patients. But today there's a good chance that neither the doctor nor the patient would see these results in time. Besides access, we also need IT systems that notify us (and our care team) as soon as results are available, make it easy to view and interpret them, alert us to results that are out of the normal range, and set off appropriate warnings when results are potentially life threatening. Computers can so easily help prevent these disasters. We need experienced IT developers to help develop the programs that will be both useful and usable.

Ted Eytan, MD