Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Risks and benefits of direct access to lab results

From the 5 January 2012 posting by   at KevinMD.com

Excerpt from the article

I am a big fan of DIY (do-it-yourself) healthcare, at least for the bulk relatively minor issues that plague people.  I think the days when doctors were needed to control, interpret and dole out health data and information are waning.  There are simply too many ways, primarily via the internet, to get good, reliable, easy-to-understand information about our own health.

 

The Quantified Self (QS) people who use sensors, mobile apps, and other devices to collect data on themselves may be taking it to what some would consider extreme, but I think it is the wave of the future.

Now, no one would question who “owns” the data collected in this manner, but how about data collected via a medical laboratory?  Is that somehow different and something we, the patients, should not be allowed direct access to lest we harm ourselves by misinterpretation.  Interesting question!

The issue is explored in a commentary in the December 14, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.***  Traber Davis Giardina, MA, MSW and Hardeep Singh MD, MPH, ask the question:  “Should patients get direct access to their laboratory test results?”  They find that it is “an answer with many questions.”…

The reason to raise this question now is that there is a proposed rule by the Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Office for Civil Rights, that would allow individuals the ability to access their test results directly from the laboratory by written or electronic request. …

There are a number of reasons why direct access is a good idea:

  • Between 8 and 26% of abnormal test results, including those suspicious for cancer, are not followed up in a timely manner.  Direct access could help reduce the number of times this occurs

Self-management, particularly of chronic illness has known benefits.  Just like the QS people, many folks with chronic illness obtain and manage to self-acquired lab results every day via glucometers, home pulmonary function tests, blood pressure measurements, and so forth.  Direct access to laboratory-acquired data, one could argue is a continuation of that personal responsibility…


The arguments against direct access discussed by Giardina and Singh include the following:

  • Studies show that patients prefer their physicians contact them directly when they have abnormal test results, although the studies, published in 2005 and 2009, preceded the extraordinary use of the internet to access health information that exists today.
  • There is concern over whether patients will know what to do when they receive the results – will they make erroneous interpretations or fail to contact their docs? …..

Read the entire article here

 

***Article available online to paid subscribers only.

 For suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost, click here

 

January 6, 2012 - Posted by | health care | , , ,

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