What Group Health Physicians are saying about sharing imaging test results with patients – 1 year later

Time flies – it’s the 1 year anniversary of Group Health Cooperative (happy disclosure: The Group Health Physicians group is an affiliate of The Permanente Federation) sharing imaging (X-ray, MRI, CT) results with patients online through their secure patient portal, MyGroupHealth (http://www.ghc.org)

Group Health (@GroupHealth) is not the first health system to share imaging test results with patients. Unfortunately, it’s not the last either. The sharing of this type of test is what I would still call “controversial” in the minds of physicians. It’s not controversial in the minds of patients. In other words, many physicians are anxious about sharing the details of these results. Many patients are anxious, too, about not getting their results – they want them. You can learn why in my previous posts.

In any event, here are two quotes from Group Health physicians Barbara Detering, MD, and Martin (“Marty”) Levine, MD about their experience, brought to me by colleague Jeffrey Grice, MD ( @jeffreygrice ) who asked, “what’s your advice for physicians who are thinking about sharing these test results with patients?”

I strongly support releasing imaging results to patients online. I believe it results in less work, not more. The patients who obsess about every health care detail will continue to do so whether we release the data or not. For the vast majority of patients, they like having access to the information, and they end up being more informed.

It also incentivizes radiologists to develop standard ways to describe images knowing their records will be viewed by patients

Martin Levine | FAMILY PHYSICIAN & GERIATRICIAN
ASSISTANT MEDICAL DIRECTOR, PRIMARY CARE
Northgate Medical Center, Group Health Permanente

and

I completely agree with Marty… I have NOT found this change to be onerous. The number of extra calls, emails etc has been very limited and I think the opposite (that is not getting calls to just be sure its okay for negative studies) has been an invisible benefit.

It also is a secondary check. the patients will sometimes take more responsiblity for followup etc and it helps less fall through the cracks. I know this is our job, but in the end, nobody is going to be more invested in the results and followup of tests than the patient themselves and this allows them to be actively involved to an even greater level.

Barbara

Barbara J. Detering | MD
Family Physician, Family Health Center, Group Health
Board Member, Group Health Permanente

Barbara is on the Board of Group Health Physicians, and Marty is an Assistant Medical Director of Primary Care, and yet, I felt as I read these quotes that they could just as easily have been written by their own patients.

Knowing what patients want, and bringing them the information based on their needs/wants, brings to mind another great quote,

The best physician-leaders always behave as if they have a patient at their elbow, and they bring the patient’s perspective into every conversation. James Reinertsen, MD

We hope this helps others who are going through this decision making process.

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