1. Health
Trisha Torrey

Did Your Doctor Call You With Your Test Results?

By June 23, 2009

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And if not, did you assume that meant everything was OK?

It may not have been. And you may be sicker because of it.

A group of researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College issued the results of a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine that said that, of the people studied, 7 percent of patients who were given one of 14 standard medical tests as ordered by their primary care doctors, and whose results were abnormal (meaning -- a problem!) never got notification of that problem. No one ever called them with their problematic test results.

Don't think for one minute that scenario was unusual. As our primary care doctors are pressed harder and harder for time, more and more test results are not being shared with patients. And more and more of those "missed sharings" are bad news.

What does this mean for patients? It means we need to step up to make sure we get the feedback we need on medical tests we take. No excuses from our providers and no excuses from us. It's our body, it's our medical problem, it's our responsibility. End of lecture.


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Photo Eric Hood / iStockPhoto.com

June 23, 2009 at 8:38 pm
(1) JennRN says:

My doc… great! My husbands doc, who ironically shares an office with my doc, not so great.

He sent a form letter listing the results of a testosterone test, circled the low results and wrote “low” next to it. By the time I had gotten home my husband had, of course, started researching low testosterone and was sure he had a brain tumor.

I was infuriated. Luckily, the specialist was much better and got my husband’s testosterone on track and also tested for make sure he didn’t have a pituitary adenoma. There was a lot of worrying on my husband’s part that need not have happened. I could have worried enough for both of us.

The family doc’s notification was absolutely inexcusable in my opinion, given the potential diagnoses involved.

June 23, 2009 at 9:14 pm
(2) Deborah says:

I tried to answer your poll, but my issue was not one of the answers. I got my labs done a few months ago. I am a Kaiser patient, so I can look them up myself, but, the nurse called me months later to tell me my abnormals. What if I was elderly and could not look those up? I wonder?????

June 23, 2009 at 11:49 pm
(3) Marcia Purse says:

Recently I had X-rays done. My doctor’s office called, yes, BUT – they called my cell, which I had told them was only for emergencies because I never look at it. Three days later I called them and got the results. So yes, they called me, but it didn’t do any good. (I had them remove the cell number from my records completely.)

June 24, 2009 at 10:01 am
(4) Sharon says:

My current doctor is very good about calling to give me results on tests. My former doctor, however, wouldn’t call unless I called the office first, and then it took at least two calls before I’d get a callback from him. And the last time it took almost two weeks to get a callback, and it wasn’t until I told them I’d have my surgeon call for the results that he finally called back. While the last time was mostly the nurse’s fault (she insisted the doctor had already called me–which he had on the first round of lab tests, but this was the second round and he hadn’t called me on those yet–and apparently refused to “bother” the doctor again), but the doctor should routinely check to remind themselves which of their patients they ordered tests for, and whether they called the patient back.

June 25, 2009 at 3:44 pm
(5) Emily says:

Definitely agree on this one. Also, some doctors will not share abnormal results with you if they are borderline low or high and IMO, I want to know about them. Some doctors don’t share abnormal results if they do not think they are that important!

I go one step further and ask the lab for a copy of my blood work.

May 27, 2012 at 3:40 pm
(6) dvanilla says:

I disagree with this article. Doctor offices have nurses, medical assistants, and lab techs, who can pick up the phone and call there patients in a situation like this. It seem as if this article is trying to see if these professionals can get away with not doing their job based on your response. It’s not the patients job to call for their results this is obsurd.

Our country is getting more lazier than ever before. A letter or a phone call will do us a lot of good. They are trying to get away with not being responsive to your call. Soon they will fit other duties that is in their job description on us all.

December 27, 2013 at 12:08 am
(7) PJ says:

Although as patients we can follow up, there should be mechanisms of automatic feedback from the medical office. They do not fail to file billings in a timely manner so the followup should not fall through the cracks.

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