Specialists against sending results to patients


Australian specialists have voted against sending test results direct to patients, particularly if results are abnormal.

The survey that included 70 Australian specialists revealed that 74% would be uncomfortable with direct notification of clinically significant abnormal results without physician review.

However just over half agreed that patients should be sent normal test results. This compared to 69% of the 245 US physicians who also completed the survey.

The majority of physicians expressed concerns that direct notification of test results could result in anxiety, and confusion, said the study authors which included Johanna Westbrook from the Australian Institute of Health Innovation at the University of  NSW.

Doctors were almost five times as likely to endorse direct notification of abnormal results if they believed it would reduce the number of patients lost to follow-up, found the survey published in Patient Education and Counseling.

They were three times more likely to advocate direct notification if they had personally missed an abnormal test result.

Most physicians said they telephoned the patient or scheduled an appointment to discuss abnormal results, but Australian specialists were more likely to wait until the next appointment to notify patients (75.9% vs 42.1%).

“Current evidence generally indicates there is an absence of anxiety related to access to medical information (including test results) and thus improving physician awareness of this evidence is warranted,” the researchers said.

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