Do patients really need their complete lab and radiology reports?

Most prefer the bottom line, sparing them the raw data.

Primary care physician Rob Lamberts asks that exact question, and reprints sample reports of lab tests and an echocardiogram, demonstrating the wealth of information they contain.

So, borrowing this image from Dr. Rob, I’m not sure how useful something like this would be to patients (sorry for the small type, but you get the idea):


Much of the data is not relevant, with the abnormal results in the range of lab error. Many patients won’t know what to do with these numbers, although I can appreciate the few who are diligent and enter such values in a spreadsheet so they can track it.

So, when you consider that the amount of time a primary care doctor is able to spend with patients is shrinking, does it really need to be filled up by questions generated from essentially normal lab reports?

Alas, as you can see from the comments generated by Dr. Rob’s post, there’s no clear-cut answer, as some prefer to receive the raw data, while others simply want the bottom line.

If there was an efficient way for patients to make their preferences known, that probably would be the best solution. However, considering I review hundreds of lab tests daily, there’s no way I can keep track of how much detail an individual patient would want in their lab reports.