Patients have a Right to Receive Diagnostic Test Results in a Timely Manner

Diagnostic Test Results

Communicating diagnostic test results to patients is an important responsibility for health practitioners. Patients are entitled to receive their test results in a timely manner to ensure they are aware of any health diagnoses. The consequences of failure to communicate test results can be very serious; especially when appropriate treatment is delayed as a result of a failure to disclose vital health diagnoses.

Medical malpractice lawyers represent clients who have been harmed by a negligent failure to communicate test results in a timely manner. Patients who never receive information about their test results, may miss out on critical time that could have been used to begin treatment before the disease progressed. Often, delayed treatment means more expensive and more invasive treatment. In some cases, a patient may even lose their life because of the delay.

Standards for Communicating Diagnostic Test Results to Patients in Washington State

In 2011, the Washington Medical Commission issued a guideline on the “Transmission of Time Critical Medical Information” that discusses a practitioners’ obligation to communicate important diagnostic test results to their patients.

All medical practitioners should have an effective system that will make it possible to communicate test results and provide appropriate follow-up in a timely and reliable manner. In order to meet this standard, the system should have a list of processes in place:

  1. Clear definitions that make it possible for health care providers to easily identify critical test results verses routine test results.
  2. A trigger for the physician who ordered the tests to be notified that they have received critical test results from the diagnosing physician. There should also be follow-up protocol established when the lab is taking longer than usual to send test results.
  3. A standard process to communicate test results to patients in a timely manner. Many physicians now use patient portals as a way to directly communicate test results to patients. A phone call may be necessary for any patients not comfortable with or without access to an online portal.
    • The test results should be communicated in a way that avoids confusing medical jargon and laid out visually so that results can be easily understood by the patient.
    • The medical record should clearly indicate who, how, and when the communication was made.
    • The communication should comply with the privacy requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and Washington State law.
  4. There should be confirmation that the patient received the test results that is clearly documented in the medical record.
  5. Clear instructions should be provided to the patient about how they should contact their health care provider to ask questions and schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss any diagnoses and treatment plan(s). The instructions should also be documented in the medical record.
  6. If the test results show that medical treatment may be necessary, the ordering physician should discuss all the options with the patient and begin treatment.
  7. There should be a qualified back-up person designated to receive test results, contact the patient with their results, and begin any appropriate follow-up and medical treatment when the practitioner who ordered the tests is not available.
  8. The system should rely on both technology and human attention to prevent any test results from slipping through the cracks.

If you or a loved one was injured as a result of a failure to communicate test results, seek the help of an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can assess your case and discuss your legal rights.

The Seattle Personal Injury Attorneys You Want on Your Side

The personal injury attorneys at Tinker Law Firm have been winning birth injury, medical malpractice, and personal injury cases for individuals and their loved ones in Seattle and across Washington State since 1974. We seek justice for injury victims who have been harmed by preventable medical errors, and the negligent or abusive actions of another. Our clients pay no fees or expenses to file a personal injury claim; our firm advances out-of-pocket expenses and is only reimbursed when we recover a settlement on your behalf. Do not delay; personal injury claims in Washington State have a statute of limitations, which means they must be filed within a certain time from the date of the injury.

Call us now at 206-842-1000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled and experienced injury attorneys.