The NY Times Well blog has a podcast of Dr. John Hickner, professor of family medicine at the University of Chicago, discussing why patients should always call their doctors to follow up after having a medical test done.
We have previously discussed the issue of medical test results getting lost in transmission: the patient will expect the doctor to call if there is bad news, and will feel reassured if he or she hears nothing, while the doctor’s office will wait for the curious patient to contact them, or will simply forget, and the patient “falls through the cracks.” As a result, the patient may not hear about important test results.
The best way for patients to deal with this is to remember to call their doctors after testing and keep in mind that no news is not necessarily good news.
Another thing that patients can do is always ask the testing facility for a copy of the test results. Some laboratories and radiology offices resist this, but every patient has a right to their own records.
Serious injuries can happen to patients from delayed treatment due to these failures of communication, so it’s important for patients to be pro-active about their test results.