Empowered patients know how important it is to obtain and read your own test results, which, disturbingly often, ordering doctors forget to pass on. But try to get them directly from the lab itself and you often would run into a roadblock; “No, your right to obtain your own records applies only to your own doctor, not to a lab like ours.”
A new federal regulation published this week finally gives patients the legal muscle to insist on a copy of their own test results from the lab itself. The new reg abolishes a long-standing laboratory exception to the HIPAA statute’s right for all patients to obtain their own medical records (and importantly, to shield their privacy).
If you haven’t taken the plunge and read your own test results, now is a good time to try it. You’ll find that abnormal values are clearly highlighted (so they stand out to busy doctors perusing hundreds of test results a day).
The next question, of course is, “What does an abnormal result mean?” (Often nothing, especially when the result is just a nudge outside the normal range. But still, you want to know.)
For this, I recommend a non-commercial, peer-reviewed web site from the clinical laboratory industry: Labtestsonline.org. Here is the site’s tutorial on understanding your own test results.
The best time to ask the lab for a copy of the report is when you show up for the test. Fill out a form, sign it, and enforce your legal right to know what’s going on in your own body.