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Patients can now get lab results without their doctor

labresultBy Brad Broker

Patients can now get their own test results directly from the lab.  No more calls to the doctor’s office, waiting on hold with the front desk, or arguing with the office staff.

The new rule, which was first proposed by President Obama in 2011, is part of an ongoing effort to give patients more control of their own health care information and maintenance.

“Information like lab results can empower patients to track their health progress, make decisions with their health care professionals, and adhere to important treatment plans,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Under new rules announced Monday by the Obama administration, patients are permitted to receive test reports directly from the lab that produced them. The rule officially amends CLIA (the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988) by permitting “a laboratory to provide patients and their personal representatives with direct access to completed test reports when the laboratory can authenticate that the test report pertains to the patient.”

The new rule also amends HIPPA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) by superseding “state laws that prohibit a laboratory from releasing a test report directly to the individual or that prohibit the release without the ordering provider’s consent.” So the patient will not need a note from the doctor to get their own lab results.

Patients are still permitted to receive test results from their doctor’s office, which may be preferred in many cases requiring input and advice of the ordering physician.  However, this new rule gives the patient another option in the management of their health care.

“Studies show that patients who have access to their health records tend to be more engaged in decision making than those who don’t,” Jon Cohen, senior vice president and chief medical officer of Quest Diagnostics, told USA Today.

The Obama administration expects the new rule will “reduce the chances of patients not being informed of laboratory test results and potentially reduce the numbers of patients who fail to seek appropriate care.”

Regarding physician responsibility, HHS says “the rule will further encourage ordering and treating providers to more proactively discuss with patients the range of possible test results and what the results may mean for the particular patient before or at the time the test is ordered.”

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