A new rule announced by the Obama administration on Monday will allow patients to access their lab results without have to go through their doctors. The rule is part of a broader effort on the part of the administration to give patients more control of their health care.
“This new rule is part of a broader shift toward patient control over health information,” commented Bill Cash, an attorney with the Levin, Papantonio law firm who practices in the areas of personal injury and bad drug litigation. “The era where only the doctor was allowed to know anything or have an opinion is ending.”
Currently, 13 states have laws that prevent laboratories from releasing results directly to patients. The new rule supersedes those laws and allows patients to access their lab results directly, according to The Washington Post.
“Just as patients have the right to own their own medical records, patients should have the right to access their lab results without getting permission from their doctor,” Mr. Cash added.
Opposition groups worry that the bill would further serve only to complicate things. Most lab reports contain an array of numbers and values that can be difficult to understand. A patient trying to comprehend the information without the assistance of a doctor may only serve to needlessly worry them.
However, advocate groups have pointed out that studies show physicians’ offices can fail to report abnormal test results to patients. This means that in some cases, patient results come to the physician’s office, as would have been in accordance with the old standard, and contained results that should be of concern to the patient. The office then failed to inform the patient of the need for concern.
The paradigm being called into question is one where a patient is assumed to be incapable of seeing to their own best interest. The new rule assumes the opposite, that it is better for a patient to raise concerns and have them addressed by their physician and if something seems suspicious, they will seek out the information they need.
Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow him on Twitter @Joshual33.