Tell the CPSO to improve how doctors communicate test results

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  • Len says:

    This is another example of creating bad policy because the poor practice of a few individuals. If I as a family doctor had to notify every pt of every normal result it would eat up enormous amounts of time making me unable to do other vital parts of my job. I could delegate it to my nurse but then she wouldn’t have time to do a lot of the other important things she does. Not only do I get the results of the tests I order but also the tidal wave of test results from patients of mine in hospital, ordered by specialists etc. Ever had trouble getting through to your family doctors receptionist? It would only get worse as office staff spend tons of time calling pts about normal results. Most people are difficult to get a hold of these days despite cell phones etc. It often takes multiple attempts to get someone on the phone. We could use email but then we would have to verify the email address every time we ordered a test as these change too. As for verifying phone numbers every time a test is ordered guess what, more time needed and less patient care being done. If I have a patient with a critical result even if we don’t have an up to date phone number we find them. We call a relative to get a number. We send a letter to the patient. We don’t give up. We document that we did these things. I don’t know if the doctor in question did these things or not. If he didn’t he should have. Having pts being able to access their own results can be somewhat helpful but it has limitations as well. The other thing we do is we call pts about test results we know they are going to worry about. Like biopsy results. We know pt is going to worry until they are told it is normal so we call as soon as we can that we got a normal result. Patients could do their part by informing the receptionist when they see the doctor when their phone number has changed etc.

  • Elizabeth Rankin says:

    There is one very simple solution to this very common dilemma….ensure it is the patient that gets the test results! By law, patients are entitled to all their test results and in a timely manner. Each time a patient has any test, the test results should automatically be faxed, emailed, or mailed to the patient at the same time they are sent to the patient’s physician to avoid this type of oversight. Any patient’s requests from any lab or hospital or any other medical related facility should provide the patient “their data.” This example is only one of many patient safety risks where there lack of proper communication in the health care system affects patients.
    The CPSO have guidelines that may annoy some doctors and for patients, may confuse them into thinking that: as read, they “appear” comprehensive, therefore the doctor will follow the guidelines. Mistake, big time!. However, and this is the biggy…there is no enforcement of the guidelines and this is apparent in Matt’s case.

    Elizabeth Rankin, BScN

  • Margaret says:

    PS: I think the Canadian College of Physicians and Surgeons should set and enforce clinic practices concerning records management- among other quality of care issues. There should be an accreditation system for all outpatient physician clinics and there should be some manner of routine oversight, including patient experience/satisfaction measures.
    I’m a social work practitioner myself, and now a chronic care patient, having worked in several health settings. My experience in BC, well it is appalling. It is hard to describe how rigid yet dissembled health services are in this province. I empathize with your situation and support the direction you suggest.

  • Margaret says:

    I sympathize and share your indignation about lazy, careless physicians with disorganized, poorly trained rreception staff. If you have ever seen ‘Little Britain’ you might remember Carol Beer, who featured once as a hospital information agent. You will have to look it up on You-Tube to understand the comparison between Carol and clinic office staff , at least here in BC.
    When I secured a new GP after moving to Vancouver from another Health Region, he would not request my records from my previous physician or from other specialists. He said it was up to me to obtain and deliver my health records to his office. So I actually had to go photocopy my personal records, which I always request for myself now, and bring them to my GP’s office in person. This is of course, a cost cutting strategy, by transferring case management onto patients themselves.
    Also, this new doctor did not send imaging or consult records to an ENT specialist when he made a follow up referral for thyroid issues. Another specialist office claimed they sent a consult report to my GP, but six months after the apt, my GP still did not have the report, and didn’t believe the test results when I told him the diagnosis. The GP office claimed to send a referral back to my neurosurgeon, but six months later the specialist had not received any information from this GP.

    I’ve had two health conditions in BC that were not diagnosed until I went into crises when I was on vacation back east. One of these required a test for cancer, another required urgent surgery.

    As a health professional myself, I would be fired if any of my patients complained of this experience. But physician clinics here seem to have lower standards and less accountability to patients than any other health profession, even to their College.

  • Natrice RESE says:

    I agree that all patients should be getting test results as soon as the doctor does. I understand from my own experience that without a push our results, our information is sometimes left in a file, and not shared with the patient swiftly.
    It is vitally important for our health and well being. Nothing less will do.

  • Alex says:

    I do not agree with these guidelines. These guidelines above are a progress toward the right direction, but they are not enough. I think patients we should work toward making standard that patients will receive a copy of their test results, the same day their doctors receive it. The Lab test results would include explanation in plain language about how the test should be and how they should not be interpreted. To claim that patients cannot understand medical test results and therefore should not receive a copy of their lab tests results is insulting and is an excuse used to cover up a power imbalance. This is a paternalistic attitude that must go away. In my country of origin (a third world country), I would receive the test results before my doctors would. It is a shame that in Canada, a rich country, things are usually still far from this.

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    • Sue Paish says:

      Hello Alex: If you live in Ontario or BC you can access your results online through secure online access service called ‘my results’ in Ontario and ‘my ehealth’ in BC. These services are provided free of charge to citizens through LifeLabs and provide you with practical and timely information about results of tests you have completed through LifeLabs. Tens of thousands of Canadians are signing up for this service every week. For more information please check out http://www.lifelabs.com . I hope this helps.

    • Elizabeth Rankin says:

      Right on Alex…couldn’t agree more!


Zal Press


Zal Press is Vice-Chair of the CADTH Patient and Community Advisory Council, founding Co-Chair of The Beryl Institute Global Patient and Family Advisory Board, and former Executive Patient Lead to the Toronto Central LHIN One Community strategy development team for integrated care.

Matthew Price


Matthew Price is an independent law professional and social worker having practiced family and child welfare law for over 35 years and is delighted to be able to play an active role in his 2 year-old son’s life.

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