LAS VEGAS – Patients want to be able to review their test results online, even before they discuss them with their doctor.
A Mayo Clinic survey of 1,972 patients reported that 61% were very likely and 30% somewhat likely to view test results prior to having such discussions.
"This may pose interpretation challenges for patients, especially when complicated medical terminology is used or a difficult diagnosis, such as cancer, is revealed," Dr. Mark Parkulo said in an interview. "Providers are justifiably concerned about this, but the survey also emphasizes the importance patients place on the interpretation of the results by their provider."
Overall, 28% of patients reported that it was somewhat important and 35% very important for their physician or health provider to see the results first, while 33% said it was somewhat important and 42% very important to be able to communicate with their doctor about the results.
"I think this should reassure providers that most patients value the providers’ counsel and will seek their input prior to making a decision," said Dr. Parkulo, an internist who chairs the e-health policy work group at Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla.
Visitors to MayoClinic.org were invited to participate in the survey in October 2010. Patients in the hematology and medical oncology departments at Mayo’s Rochester, Minn., clinic and primary care patients at the Florida clinic also were asked to complete a paper survey. Roughly half of the patients were Mayo Clinic employees.
Respondents had a high level of interest in viewing laboratory data and clinical notes online via a secure portal, Dr. Parkulo reported at the HIMSS12 annual conference.
In all, 70% reported being very interested and 20% somewhat interested in using a Mayo Clinic website to view their test results. Similarly, 69% were very interested and 21% somewhat interested in using the site to view clinical and provider notes.
Respondents varied in how soon they expect test results to be available online, with 38% wanting access to results as soon as results are known, 29% within several hours, 27% within a day or two, and 3% within a week, Dr. Parkulo noted. A total of 3% percent responded "don’t know/no opinion."
For pathology and radiology results, 48% preferred that the provider contact them with the results prior to being able to view them online; however, 35% wanted the results posted online, even if the results had not been reviewed and no matter what the results were.
"These findings should be taken into consideration during website/portal development, as online access to personal medical information expands," Dr. Parkulo recommended.
A total of 44% of respondents reported having a serious medical diagnosis.
Most survey respondents (44%) were aged 50-64 years, 29% were 30-49, 22% were 65 or older, and just 5% were aged 18-29 years.
The majority of respondents were female (72%) and white (91%).
Although 60% of all respondents reported going online daily, 82% of non-Mayo employees and 64% of all respondents had never used the clinic’s website to view laboratory test results.
Dr. Parkulo said the Mayo Clinic has spent a great deal of time discussing online issues with physicians and used the patient survey in developing its current policy. Laboratory testing is released online as soon as it is posted in the electronic medical record. Later this year, they plan on releasing radiology and pathology results after a delay of 48 hours to allow for provider review, and releasing provider notes as soon as they are available, with a disclaimer when applicable that will inform patients that the notes have not been authenticated.
"Clearly this represents a change in practice for many staff members and some have legitimate concerns about creating anxiety for patients and patients’ abilities to interpret complicated medical tests," he said. "However, patients are mostly positive concerning the ease and rapid access to their information."
Dr. Parkulo and his coauthors reported no relevant conflicts of interest.