(NaturalNews) A new federal rule to be issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will make calling your physician's office for your lab results a thing of the past.
The rule, which was first proposed by the Obama administration in 2011, will give patients direct access to their results. As reported by Kaiser Health News, the regulation "amends privacy rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) that required patients to get their lab results from their physician, according to the announcement."
In announcing the need for the new rule, HHS said studies have found that "physician practices failed to inform patients of abnormal test results about seven percent of the time, resulting in a substantial number of patients not being informed by their providers of clinically significant tests results."
Patients should have access
Jonathan Steele, RN, a holistic nurse and executive director of WaterCures.org, says that he supports the change and Americans are perfectly capable of making their own healthcare choices.
"There are doctors that feel that too much information in the hands of lay people is not good," he told Natural News. "The fact is, today, we are more educated consumers of heath care. The ones that want access will also be the ones that will know what to do with this information."
He added: "It may be that a test will show a deficiency that could be cared for by a simple dietary change. More importantly, it can be used as a motivational tool, a call to action" for the person.
David E. Williams, president of the Health Business Group, a Boston-based healthcare strategy consulting firm, said he agrees, in an email sent to Natural News.
He says that, generally speaking, "this is a very positive development."
"Patients have a right to their data and should be allowed to make decisions on how to manage it," he wrote. "Greater transparency will encourage patients to engage with the data and act on it appropriately."
Christine M. Dionese, an integrative health specialist, said the concept isn't new for her patients.
"I've always made it a policy in my practice that patients keep a complete record of all of their lab results from their various providers so that we (the patient's providers) can act as a team at any time," she told Natural News.
Educating patients is the key to avoiding misunderstandings
Nevertheless, there are some reasons to be a little cautious, as noted by HHS.
"Commenters expressed concern that patients might receive and act upon results that appear to be abnormal (showing false positives or false negatives, or results that are out of the normal range for the general population) but may be normal for that particular patient due to his or her medical conditions," said the agency.
Williams seconded that.
"Even in a healthy person, it's not unusual for some lab results to be shown as too high or too low - often in scary red ink. This can cause a patient to get nervous and stress out unnecessarily," he told Natural News. It can also "create extra, unreimbursed work for busy doctors."
Dionese says the best way to avoid misunderstandings is to educate patients.
"The patient will always have it as a resource to be their own advocates," she told Natural News. "Sure, patients sometimes start diagnosing themselves, looking up information online, but I personally counsel my patients on this."
She also said that "educating patients is key, but overall, they should have" their own results.