Di­rect pa­tient ac­cess to test re­sults adds new re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for all

Modern Healthcare - - COMMENT -

Last month, the federal govern­ment took a ma­jor step to­ward en­hanc­ing the abil­ity of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans to ac­cess their health data and im­prove pa­tient en­gage­ment as we know it in the U.S.

HHS is­sued a fi­nal rule that gives pa­tients di­rect ac­cess to their per­sonal lab­o­ra­tory in­for­ma­tion with­out first re­quir­ing the ap­proval of their health­care provider or other des­ig­nated party. Be­fore this rule, about a dozen states— in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia, Florida and New York—pro­hib­ited di­rect pa­tient ac­cess to their lab test re­sults with­out their doc­tor’s prior re­ceipt and ap­proval.

This rule is sig­nif­i­cant for a num­ber of rea­sons. En­abling pa­tients to ac­cess their re­sults di­rectly from their lab provider will help re­duce the risk that an ab­nor­mal re­sult will not get acted upon. In a re­cent multi-in­sti­tu­tional study, about 7.1% of ab­nor­mal re­sults re­port- edly were not acted upon or com­mu­ni­cated to pa­tients.

Di­rect pa­tient ac­cess to lab­o­ra­tory data will also fos­ter a richer di­a­logue be­tween physi­cians and pa­tients, ed­u­cate pa­tients about their re­sults and po­ten­tially re­duce wait­ing times for pa­tients to re­ceive their re­sults.

It is pos­si­ble that it will also help re­duce the du­pli­ca­tion of tests and in­crease the porta­bil­ity of pa­tient data across the con­tin­uum of care and health­care set­tings.

But the most im­por­tant ben­e­fit of the new rule is that it will en­able mil­lions of pa­tients to play a greater role in their health­care de­ci­sions. Em­pow­ered, en­gaged pa­tients are crit­i­cal to build­ing a qual­ity health­care sys­tem.

The rule also im­poses new re­spon­si­bil­i­ties on providers and pa­tients. Physi­cians will need to ad­just to this greater trans­parency and en­gage with pa­tients in­ter­ested in un­der­stand­ing their test re­sults to pro­mote well­ness and bet­ter dis­ease man­age­ment. Pa­tients who re­quest their re­sults will need to rec­og­nize that ac­cess to this in­for­ma­tion does not sub­sti­tute for pro­fes­sional med­i­cal ad­vice—physi­cians re­main cen­tral to test in­ter­pre­ta­tion and clin­i­cal man­age­ment.

Im­prov­ing pa­tient en­gage­ment is vi­tal to im­prov­ing out­comes, in­creas­ing qual­ity and low­er­ing health­care costs— key goals to im­prov­ing health­care de­liv­ery in the U.S. The HHS rule, by em­pow­er­ing pa­tients with di­ag­nos­tic in­sights, is an im­por­tant step to­ward cre­at­ing a truly con­sumer-friendly, pa­tient-cen­tric health­care sys­tem.

Dr. Jon Co­hen is se­nior vice pres­i­dent and chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer of Quest Di­ag­nos­tics.

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