Not All Patients Understand Lab Results


The biggest fear I have with a patient portal is explaining all the abnormal lab results that really aren’t that abnormal.  For the doctors reading this you know what I mean.   How may slightly high bilirubins or RDWs have you had to gloss over?   Well, a new study from the University of Michigan showed that only slightly more than half of patients were able to decipher electronic lab test results on their own.  Unless your practice is small and you have the time to do so then get ready to be overwhelmed (even more).  Why?  Because as Ricky Ricardo used to say, “Lucy, you got some splainin to do!”

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  2 comments for “Not All Patients Understand Lab Results

  1. August 26, 2014 at 7:38 am

    Welcome to the World of the Normal – where everything must be within two-sigma of the mean, or it is an outlier, and outliers are “abnormal.”
    My wife had a SGOT which was faintly below the two-tail 95% standard. Therefore, it was flagged as abnormal. I do not charge my wife for advice, but she was skeptical of my indifference towards the result.
    Mediocrity are the Clothing of the Empire – the King wears them. Patients are of no interest, except for their deviance from the norm.

  2. civisisus
    August 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    “The biggest fear I have with a patient portal is explaining all the abnormal lab results that really aren’t that abnormal”

    Doug – welcome to the 21st century. What you fear – what your REAL “biggest fear” is – is explaining to your patients what your value to them is, which is not “doing something about” those lab results, but providing your patients a highly-trained health professional’s view of a context for them to “do something about” them, if that’s their inclination. Because that’s not something you were trained to do, or have had any inclination to do heretofore.

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