Despite the trend toward expanding access to health information for patients, it's not clear if giving patients direct access to their lab test results is a good thing, according to a new report.
Report calls for more research on lab results access
Researchers from Baylor University in Houston evaluated pros and cons of making lab results readily available for patients, and their conclusions appear in the Nov. 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. In September, the CMS proposed a rule that would amend provisions of the Clinical Laboratory Improvements Act of 1988 and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 to allow patients to receive test results directly from labs.
"Many people have said that the solution to improve follow-up of test results is giving the test results directly to patients," said study co-author Dr. Hardeep Singh, chief of the Veterans Affairs Health Services Research and Development Center of Excellence and an assistant professor of medicine at Baylor, in a news release. "However, the current state of the science tells us two sides of the story: one from the physician and the other from the patient."
For instance, physicians might be uncomfortable with the idea that patients will see abnormal results without the benefit of in-person interpretation, according to the report.
"We also don't know what the impact will be on patients receiving sensitive reports such as pathology and HIV directly from the lab rather than from someone who is trained to convey this information," said Traber Giardina, a graduate student at the University of Houston and another of the study's authors, in the release.
The authors emphasized the need for more research to determine best practices for access to lab results.
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