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What Your Doctor Forgot To Tell You Could Kill You

Most people assume that if medical tests reveal something seriously wrong, their doctors will be quick to call to alert them. But in many cases, that doesn’t happen and it can have dire results.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine  (Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(12):1123-1129) found that in some medical groups, as many as one in four abnormal test results are not reported to patients. The analysis of more than 5,000 patient records discovered that many doctors have no formal process in place that makes sure patients hear about important findings.

“Failure to report abnormal test results can lead to serious, even lethal consequences for the patient,” says Dr. Lawrence P. Casalino, a researcher with the department of public health of Weill Cornell Medical College. “The good news is that physicians who use a simple set of systematic processes to deal with test results can greatly lessen their error rates.

“We found that very few physician practices had explicit rules for managing test results,” says Dr. Casalino. “In many practices, each physician devised his or her own method. And in many cases, physicians and their staff told patients that ‘no news is good news’ — meaning they should assume that their tests are normal unless they are contacted. This is a dangerous assumption.”

Filed Under: Alternative MedicineEasy Health Options NewsGeneral HealthTraditional Medicine

About the Author: Easy Health Options Staff Submitted by the staff at Easy Health Options®.

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  • Janet

    “No news is good news” only works for me if the doc is paying for the test for his own condition. If any test is important enough for my benefit to do it, then it is important enough to provide the report to me, no matter what the results are. The usual excuse for not reporting results to a patient is that it is too time consuming to report every test to every patient. Well, it consumed my time and money to do the test and the doc told me it would benefit he/her and I to know the results.
    Knowing what values are normal, and when, can be as valuable as knowing when they become abnormal. That’s part of your medical history. Most chronic conditions occur over time but medical records don’t last forever (try to access your records from 7, 8, or 10 years ago).

  • Sarah

    I agree entirely with Janet..& your article. I prefer to take ‘prescriptions with a “track record” ‘: most of the ‘latest & greatest’ do not have such…& now that ‘advertisements’ are allowed, most persons mentally record the ’2-pg. coloured spread’ of the ‘happy person taking the “latest & greatest”..but as to the 1-2 pgs. following, with only the major side-effects listed…–I always ‘read the fine print’…then, ‘down the road’, it turns
    out that that ‘clinical tests had actually shown a “side effect” that the manufacturer had considered so “insignificant” that it was not even included in “the fine print”…& people die from that “omision” — just as they can “die from ‘INCOMPLETELY READ LAB TESTS”….perhaps because ‘surgeons talk surgery’, ‘radiologists’ talk ‘irradiation’, …
    & ‘doctors read lab tests for only what they are looking for at the moment’ –made even worse because, for a ‘down-the-road chronic condition’, the EMPLOYER/patient has no idea what to ask the EMPLOYEE/doctor to test for

  • Dee

    This is why I always sign a form when I get tests done to have a copy of the results sent to me then I can ensure I can bring things up with my Dr if she hasn’t brought it up with me

    • charles

      You may want to double check your results with the laboratory . There’s no telling results can be manipulated …

  • Roberta

    I started requesting the complete copy of my bloodwork and within that also found some levels that will within the “normal” range, but at the tail end of the “norm” spectrum. It alerted me to a condition that I could prevent before it became damaging. I highly recommend getting copies of your bloodwork and reviewing. You can find problems early and make better choices on treatment or prevention options. Your doctor will never report anything to you within the “norm” range, which isn’t always a real “norm”.
    Women over 35 should also always request a Vitamin D3 test.