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Communicating Test Results to Patients

Insights From:Tanios Bekaii-Saab, MD, Ohio State University-James Cancer Hospital; Cathy Eng, MD, FACP, MD Anderson Cancer Center; John L. Marshall, MD, Georgetown University Medical Center
Published: Thursday, Sep 03, 2015


There are many factors involved in the process of communicating test results to patients, states John L. Marshall, MD. It is imperative for clinicians to interpret the test results and find a way to provide information that reflects the reality of the patient’s disease and the potential options that can still be pursued.

In some instances, patients will come to a visit expecting to receive test results, and the physician is caught off-guard. Practitioners should find time to understand test results, prepare accordingly before meeting with the patient, and ensure that there is a proper amount of time for the discussion, comments Marshall. This is especially important when the patient is receiving bad news.

Conversations should be tailored to the individual patient, says Marshall, as patients seek different levels of information. Some patients wish to maintain records of their test results, while other individuals simply want to know whether their disease is improving or worsening. Marshall prefers to show his patients their computed tomography scans and encourages his patients to become more knowledgeable about their disease.
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There are many factors involved in the process of communicating test results to patients, states John L. Marshall, MD. It is imperative for clinicians to interpret the test results and find a way to provide information that reflects the reality of the patient’s disease and the potential options that can still be pursued.

In some instances, patients will come to a visit expecting to receive test results, and the physician is caught off-guard. Practitioners should find time to understand test results, prepare accordingly before meeting with the patient, and ensure that there is a proper amount of time for the discussion, comments Marshall. This is especially important when the patient is receiving bad news.

Conversations should be tailored to the individual patient, says Marshall, as patients seek different levels of information. Some patients wish to maintain records of their test results, while other individuals simply want to know whether their disease is improving or worsening. Marshall prefers to show his patients their computed tomography scans and encourages his patients to become more knowledgeable about their disease.
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