General Question

JLeslie's avatar

Do you expect your doctor (the office) to call you if there is a new development in your test results?

Asked by JLeslie (65410points) December 17th, 2023
33 responses
“Great Question” (2points)

Or, is alerting you that your results are available on the doctor’s portal sufficient? The alert has no indication of what the results say.

Is it enough that you have a follow up appointment to your tests? What if you need to postpone your appointment, because something changes in your schedule?

Where I live a lot of doctors don’t call, which I think is negligent, but maybe I am behind the times. I think if something is significant in a test result that requires a change in medication, need an appointment with a specialist, a follow up for treatment, or significant enough that it might cause a patient to finally crack down and take on some better habits, that the doctor should call and not just wait for the patient to show up in their office again.

Some examples would be cholesterol of 330, when typically the patient has 240–270. Low kidney function when it is historically normal. Abnormal pap smear. Aortic valve sclerosis when none was observed before.

Some of those examples happened to me and some to my friends and no one called. Is the doctor depending on a follow up appointment enough in your mind?

Interested in your opinions.

If you work in the medical field I am interested to know what the AMA suggests or what is standard practice in the office you work in.

Feel free to share any stories that happened to you.

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Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

My doctor has the lab work on the lab company’s website, for me to see two to three days after lab work, I can see all the numbers.

YARNLADY's avatar

I get my results in my app with an e-mail telling me to look at my app.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I want my doctor to call, but they don’t do that anymore. The test results are available to me on an app. I don’t know what they all mean. I call them when I have questions.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

The only time I got a call was from the administrative staff to tell me I didn’t have cancer. If it’s serious, I would hope to get a call but I’m not betting on it.

janbb's avatar

I think they should and would like them to but they generally don’t. The neurologist did call me when I had the brain MRI and talked to me for 20 minutes but she was the exception.

Entropy's avatar

My doctor is old and computer illiterate. I doubt he even knows he has a portal. He just calls me. Not that I care. If anything was wrong, THEN I want a call. I’m healthy enough that I don’t need him calling me to tell me everything’s the same as last time. But he does. Religiously.

Oh, he’s also a quack, IMHO. But his office is SO close to my house! I could literally walk there if I had to. And I did once because my car battery died on the day of an appointment. So convenient. But when a doctor starts speaking positively to me about traditional Indian (the subcontinent, not Native Americans) homeopathic medical practices, that was the moment I was like “Shiiiiit. I may have to get a new doctor.” But I didn’t. Because he’s SO CLOSE.

Strauss's avatar

My cardiologist’s office called when there was something anomalous on my wear-at-home EKG, but they said it was something the Doc wanted to talk to me about on my next visit. They wouldn’t (or possibly couldn’t) be more specific on the phone

elbanditoroso's avatar

Mine show up on the portal within a day.

If there’s something non-routine they will either phone or send email. That has happened once. If its just test results that are normal / expected, they don’t call.,

Caravanfan's avatar

Doctors suck.

JLeslie's avatar

I can see all of my results, that’s not the question. A portion of the older people where I live don’t even use the Internet.

@Caravanfan I was hoping you would come to this Q. I’d love your opinion, and for you to advise me on what is reasonable to expect. If the standard now is no one is going to call me then I guess I’ll stop expecting that. I need to stop expecting that whether it is the standard or not. I still have doctors who do call if something is way off, but many don’t.

smudges's avatar

A couple of my docs’ nurses call with results, even though I can see them on the computer the same day if they’re drawn before noon. The docs themselves call with any kind of scan, colonoscopy or anything sent to pathology. I once had a doc call me at around 8pm due to a critical potassium level. She told me to get a medication at the drug store asap

As for waiting until your next appt to go over results, I imagine it would depend on how soon that appt is and how abnormal the results are. If they’re normal, I imagine they’d wait if they had told you to make an appt in 3 months or whatever.

note: my docs are all in a hospital system that has many hospitals and tons of offices and sort of compete with another hospital system or two, so they go out of their way to give good service. I’m constantly getting surveys to rate my appointments, and once got a thank you note for choosing my doc for a procedure I had. A thank you note! I think that’s a bit of overkill myself.

JLeslie's avatar

I am not talking about normal results as stated in the original post.

Doctors know patients are noncompliant all of the time. Just because a patient is supposed to make a follow up appointment doesn’t mean they will or that they will in a timely manner.

For normal results there often is no need for a follow up appointment and some patients get tired of wasting money and time on that. That doesn’t happen as much now that patients have access to lab work. Most of my adult life doctors would call if there was a result outside of normal that needed to be addressed. I guess they don’t anymore.

jca2's avatar

If I take a test, like a sonogram or mammogram, I get a letter in the mail from the medical practice. The letter has the results on it.

If I do bloodwork, I get the results on the portal but also I generally do the bloodwork before the doctor visit, so when I go to the visit, he discusses the results with me. My one medication is for my thyroid, so that’s usually the focus, but also my vitamin levels.

If the doctor made me do the visit, then have the blood work and then come back for the sole purpose of going over results, that would really annoy the crap out of me, especially if I was working and had to take time off work for two visits.

JLeslie's avatar

To be clear, I don’t expect the nurse or doctor to have a whole conversation on the phone. I’m only talking about a call to alert the patient that something serious is going on or needs some sort of attention.

I guess people feel a text or email to say test results are ready is sufficient, but the doctor doesn’t know you actually got the message or looked at the results with that. If they talk to you they know. If it is important you come into the office or do more tests then just seeing lab work doesn’t do that either.

Funny, first we couldn’t easily get lab results for the first 40 years of my life. The AMA fought hard not to allow patients to see results direct from labs and diagnostic centers.

Now, we can get the results and it seems doctors feel less responsible for communicating results, and patients need to be more responsible, but if you go into the doctor knowing your labs and asking a few questions, some doctors view you as a hypochondriac or annoying.

Poseidon's avatar

I live in the UK and medical practices have their own way of dealing with test results. There are no set rules for this.

When I have blood or any other tests at my surgery I am usually told to ring up in about a week. The surgery does not automatically ring the patient up with the result of tests simply because they are much too busy.

It is a different matter if a test result comes back and there is a serious problem the the surgery, nurse or even doctor contacts the patient to ask them to come to the surgery to discuss their results.

If a result comes back and there is no urgency then the surgery will wait for the patient to contact them.

I personally believe this method is the most convenient and sensible

canidmajor's avatar

I expect to be notified, yes, but a call isn’t the most convenient for me, a text is better, as I don’t tend to pick up for numbers I don’t recognize. Because there are so many phones in the Dr’s office (doctors, nurses, NPs, PAs, admins, etc) most of them are not recognized by my phone. If they alert me to the need to call back, I am happy to.

”Where I live a lot of doctors don’t call, which I think is negligent, but maybe I am behind the times.” Yes, I think you may be behind the times. With the technology being the way it is, I am grateful to have the portals, emails, and text options. I am a fully compos mentis adult, and I know how to be responsible for my own information. I would only think them negligent if they did not make any effort at all.

I have no idea where you live, now, I guess that makes a difference. If you are talking about The Villages, where most of the population is designated elderly, I would imagine that medical services are likely overloaded, and time for conversations is at a premium.

If this is a problem there because the seniors are less familiar with tech options, maybe you could look into presenting an initiative where the residents could opt in to a service that has the Drs’ offices call them if they are not comfortable with anything else.

jca2's avatar

Phone calls can be very time consuming to make (ringing, waiting for the person to answer, or waiting for the message to play, greetings, hello, how are you, all that), and so not very efficient for busy doctor or staff. I know, like @canidmajor if I don’t recognize a number, I don’t answer. Often, even if it is a number that I know, if I’m out shopping or running around or any host of other reasons, I may miss the call, then it’s phone tag.

For basic results, I’m happy with a letter or the portal.

JLeslie's avatar

Again, I am talking about a result that needs attention. Are we all talking about that?

This Q was helpful for me, thank you all for your answers. One, I see I cannot expect doctors to make an extra effort to notify if something very bad is happening on my tests. I already felt this, but now I know either my expectations were off or at minimum just have to accept the state of health care as it is.

Doctors have always been busy, but they used to call. I am thankful for the new technology and access to my information so I guess I need to accept the other side to that.

@canidmajor I actually prefer a text to a phone call, but should the text say something about the test result having abnormal results or needing follow up? Something so the patient knows it is not the usual normal results? Normal can mean normal healthy or status quo for that patient.

@jca2 So, of my examples in the OP do you consider those basic results, the patient should just check the portal themselves?

canidmajor's avatar

@JLeslie, None of my doctors use the word “normal”. If the results or condition is the same as before they say “unchanged”. If things are fine, they say “unremarkable”. (I like “unremarkable”.) If your doctors are saying “normal”, ask them to clarify.

janbb's avatar

I agree with @JLeslie on this. I think it is a diminishment of service that they do not call in the case she cites – when there is an abnormal result or something to be worried about. My old GP had a call-in hour at the end of the day when you could call them with questions, the new one does not do that. The office manager, whom I know, sometimes will call me with results. And yes, I do check the portals. And the bloodwork results say what your numbers are and what the normal range is.

jca2's avatar

@JLeslie I think with the texting idea you mentioned, texting that there was an issue with the results, they have no way ot verifying that you actually looked at it, and with HIPAA, it might even be a problem because someone else could look at your phone and see the text, and the provider doesn’t want to be responsible for that. However, by putting the info on a portal, which supposedly only the patient has access to with their signon and password, the provider can tell when you signed on and viewed the results so they have a tighter hold on the info and who sees it and when.

I am not sure about your questions about your examples. Like I said in my comment above, I have pretty “regular” results and I don’t do a lot of tests (knock on wood). I’m visiting a friend today that has more health issues and so does her husband, and so I will ask her what her providers do. My friend gets regular check ups and has HBP, unmedicated and her husband has heart issues and high cholesterol (unmedicated for the cholesterol) so they do get checked and maybe they can give me a better idea of what is typical. My friend is also a nurse so she’s pretty up on things, medically.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@jca2 is correct. It is not legal for a doctor to use regular text messaging to notify a patient of lab results. (Because of my work, I’m HIPAA trained.) The apps like My Chart that many medical professionals use have to provide encryption and special means to verify your identity. The apps for your pharmacy do too.

I wish doctors were still carefully reading lab results. It is my experience they simply don’t do that anymore. It is up to me to monitor my lab tests and to seek clarification from their office.

Caravanfan's avatar

In our system we have My Chart to communicate with patients. Also lab results are directly available to patients.

canidmajor's avatar

@Caravanfan I love MyChart! I recently went through a thorough round of scans and tests and stuff to see if my cancer had recurred, and getting results so quickly was good for ,y peace of mind, and certainly faster than waiting for them to go through the system and having the doctor’s office call the next day to say “unremarkable”. It is also comprehensive in the explanations of “normal” ranges and stuff. Beats the hellout of going through all the stuff 25 years ago!

janbb's avatar

@Caravanfan But the question is, what if there is something alarming in their results?

Caravanfan's avatar

@janbb It probably depends on the doctors office.

flutherother's avatar

I’m in the UK and my doctor will tell me when to expect the test results. It is then up to me to call the practise to get the results. If there is a problem the doctor will call me, so no news is good news.

JLeslie's avatar

I really don’t see why leaving a medical message in a vmail is ok, but not a text. If the law actually sees the two as different it is way behind the times. My vmail appears written out on my phone just like a text.

I check a box on the forms I fill out that it’s ok to leave me a message.

The text sent to me says Tri-County Heart Institute has test results posted to the portal. As far as I’m concerned that is breaking HIPPA if I have not checked the box that it’s ok to leave messages. It is saying I see a cardiologist. That is definitely not the same as a GP message in terms of privacy in my opinion.

I think possibly the texts are automated and maybe there isn’t a way to write out a specific message.

jca2's avatar

I’m looking at my phone from the summer,which is when I see the doctor for my annual physical and blood work. I see two texts, one confirming my appointment with him and one saying your prescription is on the portal, please review it. Nothing about the results of the blood work.

I asked my friend about what her doctor does and she said her previous doctor just retired, and she loved him because he would call, even at 7 at night he’d call to talk about test results. The new doctor doesn’t do that, he puts it on the portal. Her advice is wait a week or two and check the portal, and if you don’t see the results there, call the doctor’s office (which I know is what people know to do anyway).

JLeslie's avatar

I see almost all of my lab work in my Quest App, which I love, because it graphs out my results over five years. Six different doctors might have ordered the same test over five years and I can see it all there, and so easy to tell if it went up or down over time and if the numbers were in normal range or not.

Other tests like echos or xrays I get from the diagnostic center where I get it done or have to resort to the doctor portal.

janbb's avatar

I find it very annoying that many doctors use different portals so you have to keep track of each one.

JLeslie's avatar

@janbb That’s why I go to Quest. Even my doctors who can draw blood in house I prefer to go to Quest if they don’t use Quest.

Luckily, my doctors happen to use Quest for cultures and Pap smears so that’s all there too.

I print the graphs when I started a new drug so I can note what I was doing and how it correlates to blood levels. I wish I was better about doing it, but I do do it haphazardly.

Cupcake's avatar

I’m late to the Q but wanted to share my experience. My PCP comments in MyChart within my lab results for abnormal results (and also certain tests that have normal results, like pap smear, MRI, etc.), which gets emailed to me. I’ve often already seen the results before the doc comments. I get a call from the office if a result is so abnormal that I need a follow-up appointment. They generally schedule the follow-up appt during the call and seem to squeeze me in sooner than I’d be able to schedule on my own. I’m fine with this system.

My functional medicine doc never calls about results. I have to show up to my appointment to get my lab results and her interpretation in-person, even if wildly abnormal results. They do not push up appointments for abnormal results either. I can access some results (like Lab Corp or Quest), but many are sent to specialized labs or are specialized tests within Quest/Lab Corp that I cannot access, so I have to attend the appointment to get results. They do have a portal, but it seems to just work to request medication refills. I cannot access any of my information, other than prescriptions, through the portal. I can message my docs but usually get a short, unclear message DAYS later, so I prefer not to do so.

My chronic fatigue specialist posts all results in their portal and sends messages for abnormal results, along with their suggestion (e.g., “Your xyz is too high, please reduce your dose of xxx to yy…”). Then we’ll discuss it at my quarterly appointment. I can always message for clarification – we communicate well through the portal. I’ll get a call if something is wildly abnormal and need an appointment. The last time this happened, they called on Thursday afternoon and I made an appointment for Monday morning, although it usually takes weeks to schedule with them. I was nervous about it all weekend.

In short, most of my docs contact me about abnormal results, usually through their portal. I may also get messages about normal results for procedures and imaging. For seriously abnormal results that need follow-up, I’ll get a phone call to schedule an appointment from some of my docs.

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