Patients Have the Right to Know: Communication is Essential
Picture the following scenario: you’ve had stomach pain for months and all remedies have failed. Finally, your physician orders an MRI to review detailed images of your organs in order to diagnose what ails you. You get the scan, and then you wait. And then you wait some more. Weeks pass, and you still haven’t received any information about the findings. You’re still uncomfortable, and you don’t know what’s wrong with you.
Meanwhile, your test results sit somewhere – perhaps at the lab, perhaps in an email queue at your doctor’s office. It doesn’t really matter where they are; what matters is that you are in the dark.
The Danger of Delayed Diagnoses
What if the imaging test reveals something concerning that needs further attention? If you don’t receive any information, how can you obtain follow-up care?
It is frustrating when any medical information – information you paid for -- is sitting somewhere, but you don’t have access to it. It is absolutely infuriating when a delay in getting that information may result in a delay in diagnosis that could cause further complications, prolonged illness, or unnecessary death.
Improving the Flow of Information and thus Patient Safety
Unfortunately, the situation described above is not uncommon. Currently, a physician orders a test, say a CT scan of the abdomen. Then the patient goes to the imaging center for the scan. The imaging center performs an initial reading of the test, flags abnormalities, and delivers the findings to the health care practitioner who ordered the test. That practitioner then is responsible for looking at the results, communicating this information to the patient, making a diagnosis, and determining a course of action. However, according to Susan Carr, Senior Writer for Improve Dx, “a significant number of patients whose serious conditions are detected by imaging never get notified.” That is appalling.
That’s why the state of Pennsylvania recently implemented a new law: The Patient Test Result Information Act. If an imaging exam reveals a “’significant abnormality or anomaly’” that “’would cause a reasonably prudent person to seek additional or follow-up medical care within three months,’” the new law “requires imaging service providers to notify those patients directly, in addition to sending the report to the health care practitioner (HCP) who ordered the exam.”
There is reason for optimism. This law certainly seems to be a solution to a communication and patient safety problem that is both prevalent and dangerous. Having direct access to this information gives patients the opportunity to have more agency in their care. This law inevitably will result in better, more timely medical treatment, and it will save lives.
Patients Deserve to Know their Medical Information
No one should suffer because somewhere along the line critical information has been withheld from them. The fact that this Pennsylvania law was necessary underscores significant problems in the way that medical information is delivered, as well as the need to protect patients from getting hurt in this situation.
No one should suffer because a health care practitioner waits too long to address a concern, and this is a very common problem. The DeBakey study found that even when doctors receive computerized alerts, “timely follow up with patients was a problem.”
That’s not acceptable.
Help is Available
Communication errors that lead to delayed diagnosis are very serious and can result in medical harm or death. These preventable errors constitute medical negligence. Medical negligence and wrongful death are the only types of law The Eisen Law Firm handles.
If you or someone you love has experienced a delay in communicating abnormal imaging or other test results, The Eisen Law Firm can help. Call our experienced Cleveland malpractice lawyers to discuss your options for legal recourse and for obtaining the compensation you deserve. To schedule your free consultation, call 216-287-0900 or contact us online today.