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Patients Often Not Told About Abnormal Test Results
Date:6/22/2009

Study finds communication breakdowns at least 7 percent of the time,,,,

MONDAY, June 22 (HealthDay News) -- People who visit their primary care physician for routine blood tests or screenings are often not informed of the results, a new study finds.

The failure of doctors and medical facilities to follow-up and give people test results is "relatively common," the researchers wrote, even when the results are abnormal and potentially troublesome, and affects one of every 14 tests.

"If you're a patient, it's often assumed that no news is good news," acknowledged Dr. Lawrence P. Casalino, an associate professor and chief of the division of outcomes and effectiveness research in the public health department at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and the study's lead author. "But the bottom line is that is not always the case, and patients should not passively go along with that."

Casalino and his colleagues report their findings in the June 22 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The researchers reviewed the medical records of 5,434 people aged 50 to 69 years old. They focused on those who, in the previous year, had abnormal results on one of 11 blood tests or one of three screening tests at primary care facilities in the Midwest and on the West Coast. They also combed through responses to 176 surveys completed by physicians designed to assess test result management procedures at each facility.

The study found that in 135 cases -- of 1,889 abnormal test results -- either the person was not informed of the test results or the facility had not documented having communicated with the patient about the results. The upshot: more than a 7 percent failure rate in communicating abnormal test results.

Furthermore, the researchers found that most of the primary care facilities involved in the study did not follow basic protocol for test processing, and most did not have a define
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