In the past, the medical community worried about patients viewing their lab results online.  Sure, if the values are normal, it gives people a sigh of relief.

But what about the abnormal values when there is no one there to interpret them for you?

It turns out, this worry is not justified.  A study  “Viewing Laboratory Test Results Online: Patients’ Actions and Reactions,”posted October 3, 2013 on the Journal of Participatory Medicine puts liability issues to rest. kaiser Permanente polled 1546 patients who had seen at least one result online during the last year and 72% of them said that they were content after seeing the result.  Other emotions elicited were:    

  • Appreciative(68%)
  • Calm (65%)
  • Happy(49%)
  • Relieved (46%).
Negative feelings were expressed less than 5% with:
Afraid (4%)
Upset (2%)
Angry (1%)
When you consider that there may actually be a higher percentage of patients who are frustrated at waiting for their results in silence or agitated over a lack of results, the results of this study are very promising.  It also reflects a positive role of Stage 2 meaningful use that will be adopted as part of electronic health records over the next year where at least 5% of the patients in a practice must have online access their health information. By being informed prior to viewing results, patients had less angst and were very satisfied.

Still, this does not mean that conversations between patients and their physicians can be obviated. “Many tests need to be explained to the patient, so [that] he or she can anticipate what the results might mean in his or her particular situation,” they say.

Patient portals, located on physician online sites with electronic health records will not only  enable patients to see their laboratory results but also enable patients to schedule or change their appointments, leave questions and messages for the doctor or nurse, and provide information to update their records.

Do you have access to a patient portal with your physician.  If you are the doctor, are you providing that as yet?  Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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