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Patients OK Test Results Via Patient Portal Even Without Doc Counsel

The researchers suggested that explaining to patients ahead of time that they may see their test results via the patient portal before their doctors will help ease any potential worry.

Nearly every patient would rather get their test results via the patient portal, even if their provider hadn’t reviewed those results yet, according to new data from OpenNotes.

The report, published in JAMA Network Open by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and other early adopters of the OpenNotes philosophy, showed that 96 percent of patients want to see their test results as soon as possible via the patient portal.

These findings come as some industry experts still harbor concerns that patient data access, mandated as part of the ONC information blocking rule in the 21st Century Cures Act, could hamper patient experience and patient-provider relationships.

“Online patient portals have emerged as important tools for increasing patient engagement,” co-senior author Catherine M. DesRoches, DrPH, executive director of OpenNotes and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a public statement.

“They enable patients to access information, participate in medical decision-making and to communicate with clinicians.”

This study is notable because it looks at patient attitudes toward accessing test results even before their healthcare provider has had a chance to review those results. That could be a sticky situation, some experts have acknowledged, because it can be scary for patients to view abnormal results without the counsel of their doctors. At best, patients might feel confused about their prognosis, especially as the nation sees lower health literacy levels.

But this study showed that the issue is moot, with most patients saying they want patient portal access to their test results, even if they don’t get to hear context from their clinicians right away.

The researchers surveyed more than 8,000 adult patients from four different academic medical centers about their perspectives on receiving test results via the patient portal. Around 96 percent of respondents—including 95 percent of the 2,453 people who had abnormal test results—said they wanted immediate access regardless of whether they’d get clinician counsel.

What’s more, patients largely said their worry levels didn’t change when they saw their test results before their clinician had. Only 7.5 percent of the entire survey population said their worries increased when they viewed test results before they were contacted by a healthcare professional, but when zooming in on folks getting abnormal test results, that figure jumped to 16.5 percent.

Still, 84 percent of patients receiving abnormal results said there was they experienced no change or a decrease in their worry levels after reviewing their test results, even without provider guidance.

Liz Salmi, a co-author on the report and communications and patient initiatives director of OpenNotes at BIDMC, said healthcare organizations should manage patient expectations regarding the patient portal and test result access.

“Respondents overwhelmingly preferred to receive test results through the patient portal, even if it meant viewing results prior to discussing them with a healthcare professional,” Salmi said in the press release. “As healthcare systems continue to navigate this new era of health information transparency, balancing patients’ expectation of immediate access to their information with the need to manage increased worry is important.”

“Additional research is necessary to better understand the nuance of worry from receiving abnormal test results, especially as it relates to revealing information about a newly diagnosed condition such as Huntington’s disease or cancer,” Salmi added.

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