Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Should Patients Get Direct Access to Their Laboratory Test Results?

I blogged recently about "breakdown in communication of test results" and subsequently saw this piece in JAMA referencing some of the same issues and discussing whether "patients should get direct access to their laboratory test results".

The authors do a great job discussing the pros and cons of this potential solution to "communication breakdown" from both patient and physician point-of-view. In the context of performance improvement, patient direct access could certainly help to reduce some communication issues. However, it may not improve outcomes if patients are not clear about how to interpret the results. It could set up a further discontinuity within the system if there is confusion about "who is responsible for following up on the results?"

If part of a well-designed system, this initiative could help simplify the process by reducing steps in the communication chain and provide redundancy to reinforce patient safety. However, if implemented without careful thought to many of the questions posed by the authors, it could increase the complexity of the communication dynamic and lead to breakdowns of a different sort. 

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