Getting New Test Results to Patients

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Abstract

New diagnostic results are constantly arriving to outpatient practices. It is imperative to effectively communicate these results and their implications to patients.

Methods:

We surveyed 100 patients and our clinic personnel to assess opinions regarding methods of communication in common scenarios.

Results:

Response rate was 79% from patients and 75% from clinic personnel. Most patients thought letters were an appropriate way to receive normal test results (83%). They also felt medical-technician calls were appropriate for normal results (88%), medication dose changes (75%), or need for additional studies (71%). Respondents considered nurse calls acceptable in most scenarios except for new diagnoses of cancer or need for surgery; the consensus was that physicians should directly communicate to patients in these situations.

Conclusions:

Providers should take the time to discuss results with patients that lead to significant interventions, but employ support staff to disseminate information about normal results, medication dose changes, and need for additional diagnostic testing.

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