Some health care providers are concerned that providing patients with greater electronic access to their medical test results could leave patients confused and overwhelmed, particularly if they misinterpret the data, the New York Times' "Well" reports.
Patient Access to Lab Data
Since 2003, patients have had the right to obtain medical records from health care providers and health plans within 30 days of a request. Under potential changes to federal privacy regulations, patients by the end of the year could have the right to request test results directly from clinical labs.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, more than 80% of patients say they would rather have online access to their test results within three days than wait a week or more for a physician's interpretation of the data.
However, doctors say they are concerned about the potential negative consequences of providing patients with greater access to their lab data. They note that:
- Medical professionals often are needed to interpret medical jargon in lab test reports;
- Patients might have skewed perceptions of the meaning of their test results; and
- Medical offices might have difficulty dealing with panicked phone calls from patients who do not understand their test results (Hoffman, "Well," New York Times, 7/23).