Asking for Results

You don’t have to read very many medblogs to discover that there are doctors who prefer giving patients a general “everything looks okay” report, rather than providing a copy of all the specific test results.  Not that there’s a problem with the information, but because without training people don’t know what matters and what’s not worth worrying about.

When patients see values outside the normal range, they get worried. 

Oh, no!  I’m not normal!  I’m abnormal.  There’s something wrong!

This can lead to frantic phone calls to the doctor’s office about things that aren’t medically significant.  Quite honestly, when there are people waiting who are sick and in pain and needing help, it would drive me crazy to instead spend time on the phone reassuring healthy people that they’re okay.  I can understand why it bugs doctors.

There’s another aspect to this, though.  The doctor gets to move on to the next patient, forgetting about anything even slightly unusual until it becomes obvious whether or not there’s a problem.  As a patient, I don’t have that luxury.  I have to live in my skin.  Every day I’m a guinea pig in the better-living-through-pharmaceuticals experiment.

Sometimes patients want their lab reports. Doctors don’t necessarily want to spend their time explaining normal results.  What’s a good compromise?  I hope I’ve found one.  Instead of phoning my doctor to get results, every time blood is drawn I ask the lab to send me a copy of the report.  It doesn’t take any time or resources from the doctor, but I have my information.  Having a copy of my results lets me relax; I’m not waiting, wondering if the doctor’s office will phone to say that something else has gone wrong.

LabTestsOnline is a pretty good reference.  Anyone can look up any test to learn what it measures and what it might mean if results are high or low.  This allows me to be reassured immediately when things are normal, and provides background so that I am better able to understand my doctor’s explanation when they aren’t.

What about phone calls?  My doctor knows what’s too far outside normal to ignore and notifies me if there’s a problem.  I never call for a free explanation over the phone.  If something is concerning enough that I really need an explanation, it’s worth making an appointment to discuss.

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8 thoughts on “Asking for Results

  1. Another excellent site to bookmark for reference. I’ve not tried getting lab reports, etc. from the VA yet … I’m not sure how that will go over. I plan to ask, though. Being able to decipher them via this website will make it a much more useful effort.

  2. I’ve asked the lab, who always says, you need to get them from your doctor – who now refers to a medical records company – who has gotten bad about filling requests…so. At one time Quest was going to let you get your results online, but I guess that went no where, at least in my area.

  3. @Wren – there are also write-ups about conditions/diseases at LabTestsOnline

    @Chelsea – Definitely a problem. The easiest approach for future b/w might be to ask the doctor who orders labwork if writing “cc: patient” at the bottom of the requisition would work to get you a copy of your test results.

    @Dr. Kirsch – Thank you. I’d rather not need to be a patient, but I haven’t been quite so lucky; at least I can try to not annoy my doctors! (Golden Llama info here and here) :)

  4. I always get my results sent to me too. I stick everything in a file and bring it with me to any appointments I have. I have way too many doctors to expect them to all know everything that is going on. And I really hate paying for the same test twice because one doctor doesn’t know a different doctor already did it. I agree about making an appointment to discuss anything extra.

  5. I always receive a copy of my blood labs. Even if I may not fully understand all of the numbers, it’s interesting and useful to me to be able to track any changes I see. And of course, there are numbers I do understand, and I find it helpful to see my disease activity quantified in that way.

  6. @Tori – Isn’t it nice when we can give a doctor results from a different doctor and avoid repeated tests? My rheumatologist was pondering symptoms and asked if I’d ever had a thyroid ultrasound. I opened my notebook and handed her the two-year-old report. :)

    @Helen – I don’t understand all of them either, but I’m learning. I’ll probably do a graphs post one of these days.

  7. Pingback: Graphs « ∞ itis

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