Sending medical test results directly to patients

    PA lawmaker says critical information isn’t relayed to patients

    Bucks County lawmaker Marguerite Quinn says patients should get some of their test results directly from the lab. She has proposed a bill that would require testing facilities to send a summary report of imaging tests, such as MRIs and EKGs. (Photo: Wikicommons/Daniel Schwen)

    Quinn says she’s responding to reports from constituents who say critical test results never reached them. This week members of the state House health committee applauded the bill’s intent, but many had questions about protecting patient privacy.

    Lancaster County Representative Brian Cutler was an X-ray technologist before becoming a legislator.

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    “Not obtaining results in a timely manner is very unfortunate, but we as patients are already entitled to our results, so I’m not sure that imposing another mandate is necessarily going to fix the problem,” Cutler said.

    Despite many reservations, the health committee unanimously agreed to forward the bill to the full House for debate.

    “They agree that there’s a problem out there, and there have been deaths that have been a direct result of the failure to communicate medical records,” Rep. Quinn said.

    The representative says the test results would be sent to patients — by post, email or fax — 10 days after doctors are notified.

    “This whole thing is just a safety net, the goal is still that the physician goes through and delivers the test results to the patient,” Quinn said.

    The Pennsylvania Medical Society and the Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania oppose the bill in its current form. In an email, an association spokeswoman said sending test results directly to patients – without the benefit of a doctor’s explanation, could lead to misinterpretation “because of false positives, secondary diagnoses, or expected variations.” She says the association does support changes that would alert patients that their test results are available through their physician.

    There is some precedent for Quinn’s proposal. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires labs to send a plain-language summary of mammography results directly to patients.

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