How soon should patients receive their test results?

And should you assume that no news is good news?

The answer is no. According to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 7 percent of abnormal test results from primary care offices were never reported to the patient. And in a large, unnamed, academic medical center, that number ballooned to 23 percent.

That’s almost a quarter of abnormal test results from that center that patients were never notified about. Talk about a malpractice time bomb waiting to go off.

Of course, practices with electronic medical records have the lowest rate of missed notifications, but interestingly, practices that combined paper charts and EMRs fared the worst of all.

Doctors receive hundreds of lab and x-ray reports, along with consultant letters and hospital admission notes and discharge summaries, each day, and it’s easy for a single result to slip through the cracks.

So, as a patient, if you haven’t heard anything one week after a given test, I would call your doctor’s office to follow-up on the results.