Have you ever been to the doctor and had blood taken for laboratory tests?
Do you always get your lab results? Do you even hear back at all from the doctor?
All too often in medicine people have lab tests run and then never learn the outcome of those tests. It’s tempting to assume that no news is good news and therefore everything is normal, but we all know what can happen when you assume things.
You may be surprised to learn that it is quite common for patients to be unaware of positive lab results from tests run by their doctors. This isn’t usually the case with regard to procedures such as colonoscopies, endoscopies, and biopsies, but patients are more likely to be uninformed of the results of blood tests.
One example of this is anemia. Several times per year, while reviewing lab records that patients have brought with them, we will notice the presence of an anemia (iron deficiency) that had not been disclosed to the patient. Upon asking, “Did you know you were anemic?” or “How did you treat your anemia?” they will respond with disbelief, or “What anemia?”
Why does this happen? That is an excellent question.
Maybe it was overlooked. Maybe it wasn’t seen as all that important. Neither answer is acceptable, but unfortunately it is not the standard of practice for all medical professionals to review all lab work with patients. This is the opposite of our standard at the IBS Treatment Center.
It is critical that you always get a copy of your lab work. If you aren’t offered a copy, then ask for one. If the clinic is reluctant to give you a copy, then insist on it. You have a legal right to your lab work, and you are the sole repository of your complete medical history. There is no central location where all lab results are kept. If you switch doctors, move, or for some reason need your old lab results, then you are at the mercy of your previous clinic to provide them.
Doctors move on, clinics close, and records are lost. And sometimes, not infrequently, clinics fail to provide medical records to new doctors upon request. It is not a priority, and they aren’t being paid to provide that service.
Your medical records are a key component of your health history. If you don’t understand the results, then ask. Even if you don’t understand them, you should make the effort to keep copies of you results.
Some patients take this a step further. If you want to get even more value out of your lab results, you can create tables and look for trends that occur over time. This is something that your doctor probably won’t be privy to and is something that only you are likely to notice. For example, you may see the development of an impending anemia as your results begin to drift out toward the edge of the normal range. Or you may notice that your cholesterol is creeping in the wrong direction.
At the IBS Treatment Center we not only promise that you will get a copy of your lab results, we review all of those results with you at your follow-up appointment. We also encourage you to ask questions about your lab work. A major factor in our success is communication, especially ensuring that our patients understand their test results and WHAT THEY MEAN. We are also aware that many people are frustrated at always getting negative test results. But even if all of the lab work that we run is normal (which is uncommon), we will still know what to do next.
Please come see us. It is a healthcare experience and a positive change for your health that you are unlikely to get elsewhere!
Image thanks to Wikimedia Creative Commons
Dr. Stephen Wangen is the award winning author of two books on solving digestive disorders, and a nationally recognized speaker on IBS. He has been on ABC, NBC, and Fox as well as public radio. He was recently named one of Seattle’s Top Doctors by Seattle Magazine.