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.