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Does your doctor's office give you your test results through a recorded message? Does it drive you crazy?

By Expert HERWriter December 6, 2008 - 10:50pm
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I wanted to throw this topic out to all of you and see what your thoughts are. It seems like more and more doctors are relying on calling their patients with a recorded message about their test results or other information. Personally, this sends me to the moon. I just can't stand it when I'm anxiously awaiting some test result and finally the phone rings and some robotic voice tells me that my doctor's office has left a message for me. Then I have to hang up, call some other number and enter in my social security number before hearing my results in a recorded message left by a nurse. To me, if a physician and/or his or her staff can't make the effort to make personal contact with you on the phone and go over your results, something is very wrong.

What are your thoughts on this practice? Does it drive you nuts as well? Or do you think it's part of the reliance on technology and/or need for security at the office?

Add a Comment15 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

As a doctor who struggles to communicate information to patients, I am looking at this type of system right now. In the past I practiced in a more urban area where I communicated with most patients via e-mail. Now I practice in a rural area with many older patients who do not have internet access. I absolutely hate playing phone tag, and don't like calling patients with essentially normal results because of the time required, the frustration of playing phone tag, and, as one post mentions, the fact that a "quick" phone call can turn into a 10-minute clinical discussion about a medical problem. So right now I spend about five hours a week writing notes and filling out forms which are mailed to patients with their results. I come into the office on the weekend to do this. The mail takes another 4-5 days, so patients get results in 1-2 weeks. My partner doesn't call or write anyone - all of his patients are scheduled for a follow-up visit whenever he orders lab or x-ray. I prefer not making patients pay for a visit just to tell them their labs were fine. But I also refuse the habit of "we will only call you if there is a problem" because that assumes that no one ever misses something. So I am looking at one of these telephone systems as being a really good compromise. It will be much faster for me AND my patients to get them the information they need. I think it is a win-win situation. If they really want to hear from me in person, they are most welcome to schedule a visit. I am trying to offer the best care possible for my patients.

June 15, 2012 - 4:34pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I am very interested in such a outbound voicemail system as well. Can you please share the name of the providers that you are evaluating?

June 28, 2012 - 9:17am
EmpowHER Guest

I think they do that because most patients blab on and on, asking multiple questions, eating up all of the doctor's time, and ultimately taking away time when he can see patients in the office. That's why.

October 30, 2009 - 5:48pm

I have never heard of this. I have never even gotten a voivemail saying to call the doctors office back. Usually, from my experience, someone only calls if there was something abnormal with the tests results. In those cases, I believe the nurse or doctor will call to tell you to go back in to the office. But I have never heard of a voice recording. I doubt they would ever say "this and this test is positive" That is DEFINITELY a HIPPA violation. But yeah I'm pretty sure they may leave a recording saying to call their office back.

September 17, 2009 - 5:58am
EmpowHER Guest

Do doctors call to give bad news?

September 16, 2009 - 6:50pm
EmpowHER Guest

Very Interesting comments regarding this sensitive issue. Of course in a perfect world every physician would love to personally call every patient to relay their test results. However, as many of us know the world is not perfect. There are two main reasons why practices use this type of test relay system. The first is opportunity cost. According to a 1999 study, the average of times an office tries to call a patient to relay the information is 6 times before the patient receives the result. Multiply that times number of patients and you get the idea, especially at larger hospital systems. Secondly and probably the more importantly is that it will reduce the physician’s mal-practice risk. Right now if a Dr. calls the patient relays inconclusive results from a biopsy that require the patient to follow-up with another specialist, the only documentation that the physician has is a manual note or a text in their EMR that he or she called the patient. If that patient does not follow-up with a specialist and they develop a condition a few years later, one of the questions that will be asked is whether or not they had preventative tests performed to prevent the condition. With today's mal-practice attorneys that manual note to the patients’ charts (paper or electronic) is still hard to verify. With the phone or internet retrieval the practice is able to monitor if and when every pending test result has been retrieved. Over-all those types of systems, save time, money, cut down on mal-practice risk and most importantly increase patient safety.

September 3, 2009 - 12:46pm
(reply to Anonymous)

Very interesting--I hadn't considered the paper-trail reasons behind this system, and it does make sense to have automated recordings or online retrieval systems that can verify that a patient received the information.

I would actually prefer any of these methods, as my new doctor's office only calls with positive results; if everyone is negative (or "good"!), then they do not contact me (I do not receive a phone call, an email, and can not log in to retrieve my results), and my doctor/nurse will go over the results during my next visit.

September 3, 2009 - 12:52pm
EmpowHER Guest

I recently received test results on a voicemail message (NOT A RECORDING...ACTUAL RESULTS. Being a male, i doubt the pap smear, hpv, mamography results were intended for me. I called the doctor to inform her, that she had left the patients name and results on my voicemail. She asked me to delete the message. I called DHHS to complain, they told me, since the doctor asked me to delete the message, they "could" investigate but assured me that nothing would happen. GO HIPAA!

June 2, 2009 - 1:51pm

My doctor has an NP who makes the call, if it's not serious enough that the doctor needs to see the patient personally. As far as mailing lab results, mine have never come by postcard, but by letter, and I appreciate the doctor's sensitivity about patient privacy.

May 20, 2009 - 4:36pm
EmpowHER Guest

As a friend of a doctor, I can tell you that the real reason isn't laziness. It's because when a doctor calls a patient w/ results, the patient often wants to talk for a lengthy period of time about the test results and then often "oh, I have this other thing I've been meaning to ask you about." Since doctors can't bill the insurance company for time on the phone, they're basically giving out their time for free. If they have to call 10 people that day, that's an enormous amount of time, especially when they have patients who have actually made an appointment waiting in the reception.

May 20, 2009 - 1:54pm
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