Don't Expect Us to Call You For Test Results
"If you don't hear from us, it does NOT mean everything is OK. You must make a followup appointment for your results!"
You may find this odd that a clinic who values customer service would come right out and tell you not to expect us to call you for your test results. We want you to take responsibility and ownership of your own healthcare. We're not your parents who will nag you about seeing the doctor. If you have any results or further questions, please make an appointment with your doctor for followup and discuss your results. Please come back to discuss your important abnormal results, not-so-important abnormal results, your non-urgent normal results, and your abnormally normal results.
This is An Extra Safety Measure to Protect Patients and Reduce Medical Errors
We basically ask our patients to expect that we will NOT call you for results. We do this on purpose in order to build a safety redundancy in to the system so that we will not miss important results. If you only relied on us for results, then it is a single point of failure. If you also were on the lookout for results, then both of us need to miss the results in order for an error to occur.
13'ish Reasons Why "No News... is not always Good News"
#1. Our clinic never received the results from the lab... so you never got called.
This happens more often that you think. You did the test, and went home. The lab missed a step and never processed or sent the results. Meanwhile, the doctor is plowing through reviewing hundred of test results daily for over a hundred patients a week, and has no way of knowing what test result to expect back for every single patient he/she saw. You may say: "But I asked the doctor to watch out for the test and call me when the results are in!" I'm reminded of a classic Ruffle's chip commercial: "But if I give one to you...I have to give one to EVERYBODY else!" If we do this favour for you, we have thousands of patients that will ask this same favour from us as well! Despite all our technology, we do not have a good system of tracking every single test for every patient. We like to use simple strategy: you.
If you come in to talk about your results that we did not know about since we did not receive it, this adds an extra layer of safety measure for us to actively pursue your test result from the lab.
#2. Our clinic received the results, but it was misfiled...so you never got called.
#3. The results are sitting in the doctor's inbox for review, but he/she is on vacation, or sick suddenly, or no longer works at the clinic...you you never got called.
#4. We received an abnormal result, and we actually did try to reach you, but could not reach you...so you think you never got called.
There can be many reasons why we can't reach you:
your phone number was wrong, and you didn't leave another contact number
your voicemail box is full and we can't leave any more messages
you don't have a voicemail answering machine, and you didn't pick up the call (maybe you were busy, or out of the cellular area)
we called you three times and no answer, so we moved on to calling the other hundred patients...
#5. You results are normal, and your doctor didn't want to bother you to come to the clinic (since you are just as busy as we are), wait an hour, only to hear everything is normal...so we don't call you.
We don't want to infuriate you. But here is catch, if you don't hear from us, does that always mean that everything in normal? (See above and the rest of this list) However, if you wanted to come to check on your results, then we were not the ones to drag you out to the clinic. We are happy to see you again!
#6. We don't get paid for discussing results over the phone with patients...so we don't call you tell you results over the phone.
Let's be honest, a quick phone call about results, isn't always just one thing. Once a doctor is on the phone with you, then that's a great opportunity to talk about a new problem, or more about an previous problem! Please pay your doctor well, and just make a simple visit to see him/her in person at the clinic. We would enjoy a friendly medically-related chat about your life, and get paid at the same time while doing it! You may say, "happy wife, happy life", and we say "happy doctor, happy healthcare".
#7. We run a slightly higher risk managing medical problems over the phone...so our doctors avoid being on the phone with you, unless it is an emergency.
Whether it is the non-medically trained front staff or even the doctor themselves on the phone with you, relaying medical information or attempting to diagnose and treat medical problems over the phone is fraught with uncertainty and prone for errors. Without the doctor actually physically able to see and touch you (assess you in person), many medical problems cannot safely be diagnosed and treated over the phone. We want to avoid medical errors here, so why would we want to encourage talking on the phone and opening up the possibility of miscommunication?
#8. When the doctor calls me...then it must be bad news!
Some people get anxiety if they get a call from a medical clinic. So what ends up happening, is that they can't sleep the whole night, and the whole week until they see the doctor. Only to find out that something simple was abnormal, like high cholesterol results (nothing you didn't know already).
#9. There are non-urgent abnormal results, that can wait to be discussed at your next scheduled followup visit...so we don't call you about an appointment you already know about because you made the appointment yourself.
Some results can wait to be discussed. Why come back twice when you can come back once? Although we like you coming back, we don't want to go overboard and infuriate you either.
We've also have had our front staff scolded by patients for reminding a patient about coming in for an appointment when they already made an appointment themselves. We value the mental health of our staff as well as our patients.
#10. Your results are normal, but the the problem is that you are still unwell, which means that we haven't found the problem yet...so we don't call you about seemingly "normal" results.
We would like you to followup after test results, because this gives the doctor a chance to see if the treatment advice or medications he/she suggested has been working or not. If it has not, then this triggers the doctor to investigate further, consider other diagnosis, or other treatment options (increasing dose or switching type of treatment). Often, some medical problems do not show all the symptoms if they are discovered too early, and it takes some time to have all the clues surface in order to narrow down a diagnosis from an undifferentiated list. We have no idea that you are still unwell just by reading a page of your "normal" results.
#11. Your results are normal, but the doctor hasn't finished treating you yet, so we already told you to come back for followup...so we don't call you for normal results because the point of coming back is not about the results, but to continue the treatment plan.
A ten minute doctor visit is often not enough time to address all your concerns, all of the doctors' concerns, and provide all the counselling and treatment plans for you. The first visit was to get you teed up for the second visit. Meanwhile, there are many other patients waiting to see the doctor.
#12. In your last visit, the doctor forgot to tell you to come back for results or followup OR you didn't hear the doctor asking you to come back for followup.
So we're telling you here, come back for results.
#13. We don't want you to expect us to call you for results.
I couldn't think of a thirteenth reason yet, but thirteen sounds ominous. Hopefully, we can all remember how important this is.
But you just called me about a result!
If we told you that we don't call, but we do happen to call you about a result, then why should you expect not to be called and come back for results? This conversation is starting to go around in circles. The message is "Don't expect us to call you about results! Come back for results on your own!"
Let's agree on working together for your health: You commit to coming back for your results (for all the reasons above), and we commit to calling you about important/urgent results.
A medical visit is not complete with one visit, but usually with a second followup visit (especially if the problem was serious enough to order tests).
Just because you know we may call you about an important/urgent result, don't be fooled and think you don't need to come back yourself and check up on us for your other results.
Besides, if your test results said you were having appendicitis or that you had a serious blood infection, wouldn't you want to be called and notified to go to the ER? : )