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Originally published November 20 2009

Blood Test Results Often Kept from Patients

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) In more than 7 percent of cases, doctors fail to report negative, abnormal or suspicious test results to their patients, according to a study conducted by researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"If you're a patient, it's often assumed that no news is good news," lead researcher Lawrence P. Casalino said. "But the bottom line is that is not always the case, and patients should not passively go along with that."

Researchers examined the medical records of 5434 people between the ages of 50 and 69 who had undergone one of 11 blood tests or one of three other medical screenings at a number of primary care facilities along the West Coast or in the Midwest. They also collected 176 surveys from physicians in order to obtain information about each facility's test result management procedures.

The researchers found that out of 1889 cases in which test results came back abnormal, 135 did not result in a documented communication with patient, translating into a one in 14 error rate. More than 50 percent of the facilities did not have a basic test processing or results communication protocol.

Facilities with well-defined test result management procedures have lower error rates than facilities with less well-defined procedures. Facilities that used a combination of paper and electronic records had higher failure rates than facilities that relied on either method exclusively.

"Patients should not accept it when a physician or clinician says they will let you know if something is wrong," said Diane Pinakiewicz of the National Patient Safety Foundation. "Patients should ask for their test results on a consistent basis, whether or not the results are of concern -- because, if you ask for them 100 percent of the time, there is no question you will always stay informed."

"If you don't get the result you're waiting for, you really should call the doctor's office and ask for it," she said.

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