Monday, August 20, 2012

Dealing with test results

We all have medical tests and adventures that provide little insights into our health. Gone are the days where we are at the doctor's mercy for our results. But now with changes in legislation, both current and future, patients will be able to directly access their results.

This is good and bad. Yes there is a bad side to it. Go read this article on it and the one below it. I am all for patients getting their test results promptly. But the problem is understanding and coping with them.
Its fine to get results promptly when they are what is expected. Normal blood counts, benign biopsies, and the like. But what about when they are vague or are not as expected? And how to decipher the doctor shorthand?

This is the balance that we need to decode. When I use the word 'we' I am referring to both the patients and the medical profession. The doctor can not be expected to be able to access and review all test results and get back to the patients promptly. They would end up being buried in paperwork.

However a system needs to be developed where speed of response is included and deciphering of results made available. Part of this is the patient's responsibility. Before a test, ask the doctor and the technician when and how the results will be made available. Make sure you understand what they are trying to find out and what the options are for good and bad results.

If its your standard annual blood tests, maybe you are comfortable with not asking many questions. Or you get sent for a blood test for a possible new condition - what does a negative result mean vs. a positive result? If you have the ailment what is next? If you don't have the ailment, well great they ruled that out so what is next?

As a cancer patient, you get all sorts of wonderful medical adventures with complicated results. We need to know what they mean but we are not waiting for our results. Our cancer diagnoses gives us a special pass for speedy results. But we still need to have our little plan of action for each one. \

Speed here is essential but channels of communication need to be there so that the information can be digested and processed.

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