Short Takes On News & Events

New Rule Gives Patients Direct Access To Their Lab Reports

By Ankita Rao

February 4th, 2014, 8:54 AM

Calling your doctor to get lab results might be a thing of the past: a new federal rule will allow patients to have direct access to their completed laboratory reports.

The regulation was announced Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services. It 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.

The final rule notes that some labs and physicians had raised concerns about the move when the administration issued a preliminary rule in June 2011. “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.”

But HHS said the rule helps ensure patients have full access to their health information and can be proactive in their choices for care. The rule also notes that studies have found “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.”

Dr. Jon Cohen, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Quest Diagnostics, welcomed the change. “I think more physicians are comfortable with having their patients access this information – the conversations between patients and doctors will be more substantive,” he said.

He said Quest, the largest diagnostic laboratory system in the country, believes the rule will help reduce medical errors and duplicate tests, since patients will have quicker access to this part of their medical history.

Jessie Gruman, president of nonprofit patient advocacy organization Center for Advancing Health, said the rule eliminates only one small part of a larger barrier to patients receiving information they need to make better decisions about their health and treatment. She said there is a need for more transparency about drugs and medical device costs.

“It’s certainly welcome,” she said, “but this is not a big, heroic change in policy.”

5 Responses to “New Rule Gives Patients Direct Access To Their Lab Reports”

  1. John Booke says:

    My doctor posts my normal blood test results but not my abnormal results. Says he’ll post abnormal results after he calls me to explain. I had to have hard copy sent to me in order see abnormal results. It’s been 4 months and the abnormal results are still not posted. I have spoken on separate occasions to him, his nurse and his office manager and still not posted.

  2. Jennifer Hu says:

    Keep at it. Even though a health plan may have paid for tests you are now entitled to get a hard copy of all results.the MD should also have posted a copy of the abnormal.results and what he did about them.

  3. I agree with the release of lab results to Patients; it follows, if Patients, just like myself, are interested in results; as a result, to see what they as Patients might do themselves to change tested results presented after next testing has been completed. It is always good to try as a Patient to improve or change what you can for your own health.

    One of the problems with testing records release, I have found, is the the Doctor must approved the release of results to health applications such as MyChart and maybe other applications. Some times the Patient is not aware that request for test data release must be made by Patient. Seems like this informative information is not always presented to Patients as what records they may get and how to get them quickly absent a return visit to the Doctor’s office.

    A step in the right direction; it follows, if the Patients will put this new presented testing results information to positive use to improve their own health or as a stepping point to research additional information available from Doctors, Hospitals, or internet and websites.

  4. Laurie Micheau says:

    How ironic that this rule has just passed. I have been advocating for just this type of access. Unfortunately it is too late for my husband who died from lung cancer in October 2012 after a 3-year battle. His radiology report done in February 2009, indicated an infiltrate or possible mass had been detected and follow-up x-ray was recommended until the lung was clear. We were never contacted. By time symptoms had developed and he was diagnosed it was November, the mass had doubled in size and he was Stage 4. Had we see the report I believe my husband would still be alive.

  5. K says:

    Laurie, apologies for your loss. What a terrible thing to go through. Has their been legal recourse? Because this sounds very much like patient neglect, and the physicians who failed to notify you about your husband’s condition should be held accountable for their actions.