[Marketing] [IMPROVEDX] Doctors are surprisingly bad at reading lab results. It=?utf-8?Q?=E2=80=99s_?=putting us all at risk. - The Washington Post

HM Epstein hmepstein at GMAIL.COM
Fri Oct 12 23:11:57 UTC 2018

That’s really fascinating and helpful. So, Brian, why can’t the information we’re discussing be included in the ASCII text? For example, I’ve seen text information under a test result range from three words to five full lines.

When you get a cardiovascular work up or an MRI or a CAT scan you get a report that’s a couple of pages long. Why can’t those include information that would be helpful to determining next steps?

For patients to be able to truly participate in their own healthcare team, they need to have information at their fingertips. For overworked clinicians to ensure that their communication to the patient is clear and understandable, it’s helpful for them to have something documented they can share. Is there a chance that laboratories and radiologists and other testing facilities could document the type of data points that might lead to patients getting a real opportunity to understand their options? 

Perhaps I’m looking in the wrong direction by asking the testing facilities to provide this information but it seems to be a piece of inexpensive, low hanging fruit that might help reduce Dx error. 

Any other suggestions ImproveDx listserv folks?


On Oct 12, 2018, at 6:09 PM, Jackson, Brian <brian.jackson at aruplab.com> wrote:

As a clinical laboratory person, I read this with great interest.  I totally agree that we ought to be doing more to communicate the meaning of lab results, rather than just delivering the results.  But doing this requires that we have better communication tools at our disposal.  Modern healthcare IT infrastructure and interoperability standards have focused far more on computer interfaces than human interfaces.
More specifically:  Clinical lab results are in most cases delivered from laboratory information systems via HL7 interfaces to EHR systems.  A lab result message essentially consists of a few fields including the test name, result, units, reference range, high/low/critical flag as applicable, and then an optional freetext field that can include explanatory comments and regulatory boilerplate.  All of this is plain, unformatted ASCII freetext.  Laboratories have no control over the ultimate visual display of the information.  Fonts and font sizes are completely under the control of the EHR.  Even simple things like use of italics and bolding are not available.  Let alone the potentially really useful things like graphical presentation, hyperlinked information, etc.  As a result laboratories are incredibly limited in the type and quantity of information we can attach to a lab result.
The medical informatics world has put an enormous amount of effort over recent decades into data exchange standards such as HL7.  Which are certainly important and valuable.  But unfortunately there hasn’t been nearly the same effort put into human-to-human communication.  I see some little changes coming out at the IT edges, but not a whole lot or very fast.
--Brian Jackson
From: HM Epstein [mailto:hmepstein at GMAIL.COM] 
Sent: Friday, October 12, 2018 3:16 PM
Subject: [Marketing] [IMPROVEDX] Doctors are surprisingly bad at reading lab results. It’s putting us all at risk. - The Washington Post
An important article by epidemiologist Daniel Morgan in the Washington Post. 
Perhaps test results from laboratories should come with information on the specificity and reliability of the results. And specialists could provide standardized information on the probability of disease. That could lead to better conversations between clinicians and patients.

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