Doctors Fail to Inform Patients of Abnormal Test Results

A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine looked at how physicians manage test results, including how often physicians failed to inform patients of negative results.  Most of us have been there at one point or another.  The doctor orders routine (or non-routine) tests and says, “If we don’t contact you, then that means the results were negative.” It’s the old “No-News-is-Good-News” routine.  Well, you might want to consider following up on those test results just in case.

The study found that the failure rate of some doctors’ offices to inform patients of  abnormal results was as high as 26%.  They found that there was no standard method of informing patients.  Each office came up with its own methods.  Even in offices that assured patients that no news was indeed good news, this was found to not always be the case.

The researchers found that the simplest methods used to inform patients were often the most effective.  They also found that if physicians were happy with their office’s methods of informing patients of test results, then patients were more likely to receive their abnormal results. Doctors face malpractice suits if diagnosis is not made due to failure to inform patients of abnormal test results, so this should be a priority for them.  But it still seems to be a problem for some doctors.

So to be on the safe side, the next time your doctor tells you that if you don’t hear from them everything is ok, you might want to take matters into your own hands and follow up with a phone call to be sure.  Or at least request that they call you with the results, negative or positive.  You are ultimately in charge of your health

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