Following up on Asking for Results and Requesting Test Results, a friend asked me why. After all, it’s not like patients can do anything about their results. If anything can be (or needs to be) done, the doctor is in charge.
That might be true, but the doctor can’t treat what he doesn’t know. Doctors don’t always share information. Things can get missed. On more than one occasion, I’ve been able to provide the report on labs ordered by one doctor that another doctor wanted to see. It’s not just labs. Neither the electrodiagnostician nor rheumy#1 sent my EMG results to my PCP; I was able to provide the report. My PCP assumed that tests run by the endocrinologist were normal since he hadn’t heard anything; I was able to give him the report that showed otherwise. Last month when my rheumatologist asked if I’d ever had a thyroid ultrasound, I was able to open up my notebook and extract the radiologist’s report for her to see right then.
I also find that it helps my peace of mind if I have a copy of my results. I don’t just glance at whatever shows up in the mailbox, nor do I file the pages away and forget about them. I learn about the tests. When a test has been repeated, I compare the result to previous results.
Recently I’ve been plugging the results from my blood tests into Excel, then turning the data into a graph. By entering the low/high* ends of the normal range, as well as my lab results, I can get a cool graph. Here’s the illustration of one of my lab values over the past couple years.
Thankfully, this isn’t a graph of company sales! There isn’t a thing I can do about these results. I suppose I could worry about them, but I don’t see that being of benefit. It turns out that this isn’t unexpected with RA. Additionally, it can be caused by some medications. Knowing helps. For now, I can see that I’m still in the normal range. If the trend continues in the future, it won’t be a surprise. I’ll be prepared to hear the new plan of attack because I’ve already had a chance to learn a little bit about it.
This value was floating around nicely in the middle of the normal range for nineteen months. Bam! In two days it plummeted. It’s amazing that something like that can happen.
To tell the truth, I find it all pretty fascinating. I don’t need to take up my doctor’s time asking about the meaning of every test, but I’m seriously considering the purchase of a few textbooks so that I can make more sense of it all.
*green=low end of normal, brown=high end of normal