Big Brother doctors say patients don't need to see their imaging test results

Thursday, April 22, 2010 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: medical imaging, test results, health news

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(NaturalNews) If you are an American, you probably assume that this is a free country. So if you agree to undergo imaging tests -- which cost you or your insurance company hundreds and even thousands of dollars and may subject you to radiation -- you have every right to see the results.

After all, it's your body, your test, your money and your health involved right?

According to a new report just published in the April issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology, most doctors surveyed don't think the answer is "yes". In fact, they don't want patients to have direct access to their imaging test results because "it could lead to increased patient anxiety and unrealistic demands on physician time".

You read that right: physicians with a "Big Brother" mindset apparently think people having imaging tests are incapable of dealing with the outcomes without suffering from so much anxiety they must be protected from seeing the results. And, bottom line, these docs just don't want to spend the time answering questions about the imaging test results, anyway.

Those are the conclusions of research performed at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which looked at the possibility of radiologists using the Internet to communicate imaging results quickly and directly to patients. Eight radiologists and seven referring physicians participated in the study which used two focus groups to gather information.

"While physicians participating in this study generally agreed that patients should take more responsibility for their own health care and be better informed, and that the system for reporting needs to be improved, only a small minority of radiologists and referring physicians supported patients being offered unlimited direct access to radiology test results," said Annette J. Johnson, MD, lead author of the study, in a statement to media.

The radiologists and referring physicians admitted there are potential benefits of an online system for patient access. For example, patients clearly want to see their test results and so online access would increase patient satisfaction. In addition, the Internet access could also offer patients hyperlinks to educational material so they could find out more about their tests and conditions.

However, the doctors in the study were loaded with arguments against this direct patient access. For starters, they apparently assume patients are too uninformed, stupid, or incompetent to understand the reports. And they don't want to have to spend time answering a lot of questions from people about their tests, either.

"The greatest concern revolved around patients' ability to understand written reports. Participants predicted that patients, who may not fully comprehend the report's content or place its meaning into proper context, would experience increased anxiety if they did not have prompt access to a physician to assist them in understanding the results and implications. They also thought that referring physicians and radiologists might experience a dramatically increased number of telephone calls from patients for clarification of report contents -- an increase that they could not realistically accommodate," Dr. Johnson said.

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