Doctors should return test results faster

“In many ways, uncertainty is the worst disease in the world . . . the not-knowing can be worse than knowing the worst.”

How true. Sheer volume of paperwork sometimes causes delay. As a primary care physician, I receive every single lab and X-ray test for my patients, whether they were ordered by me or not. This can number to over 100 per day, in addition to seeing patients every 15 minutes. I try to send out result letters the same day I receive them. Urgent abnormals necessitate a phone call from my office. Highly anxious tests, like mammogram results, I like to send out a redundant result letter even if the hospital sends out one, just to ensure the patient receives the result.

One word of advice – never assume that “no news is good news”. Always make sure that a patient has the “negative” or “normal” result in hand. There are cases where abnormal results may not be communicated, because one physician assumes another is going to do it. If a patient doesn’t receive a result within a week (or sooner) of a test, proactive calling of the office is encouraged for follow-up.

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