As the patient, you are entitled to know the results of your medical exams. All medical professionals are held to a high standard of medical care. That standard of care includes informing patients of the outcome of any medical test or examination, such as a colonoscopy or a mammogram. Your doctor should also inform you of the purpose of any medical exam and all dangers or side effects that might result from the exam.
One of the leading causes of medical misdiagnosis is the failure to communicate test results. Communication of a diagnosis is just as important as the diagnosis itself. Patients should know the results of any medical tests they’ve undergone in a timely manner. Labs and testing facilities should communicate test results to the medical providers responsible for the patient’s treatment.
When abnormal test results are not properly reported, the consequences to patients can be serious or even fatal.
Why Would My Doctor Withhold Test Results from Me?
Research indicates that doctors can fail to communicate test results to their patients over 7% of the time. Failure to communicate test results may not seem like a common problem. Still, such failures can result in serious injury or complications, even if the test results do not indicate that anything is wrong. Test results are used to determine whether further treatment is necessary.
A doctor might fail to disclose test results for several reasons. For one, they may simply forget to tell the patient about the test results. More often, test results can be lost or confused along the chain of communication in a hospital. Test results are often relayed between several people, such as from a nurse to the general physician or from a general surgeon to a specialized surgeon. It is essential to locate the source of the miscommunication to determine who is liable for the miscommunication.
What Types of Damages Can I Obtain?
If your test results have been withheld from you, you may be entitled to legal relief. Legal relief could include monetary damages for injuries resulting from the failure to communicate. You may also obtain compensation for medical fees and other related costs stemming from the failure to communicate.
Additionally, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit if your injury is severe. You will have to prove in court that you received actual damages due to the doctor’s failure to communicate test results. Also, you will need to prove that the failure to communicate test results is directly traceable to your doctor.
What Types of Medical Tests Are Commonly Miscommunicated?
Medical tests can be divided into two categories: diagnostic tests and screening tests.
Diagnostic tests are administered to patients who show signs of a disease or condition. A woman with a lump in her breast or a man with chest pain would undergo a diagnostic test.
Screening tests are performed on patients at risk of developing a disease or condition. Routine mammograms and prostate screenings are examples of screening tests.
Medical testing may also include laboratory tests and imaging. Blood tests, urine tests, and tissue samples are laboratory tests. X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and EKGs, are examples of imaging tests.
When Could Failure to Disclose Test Results Amount to Medical Negligence?
Regardless of the type of medical test performed, if the test results are not communicated in a timely and appropriate manner to the patient, and the patient subsequently suffers harm, the basis of a medical malpractice lawsuit may be formed. Harm must be suffered. A patient who suffers no injury after a failed communication will likely have no basis for a medical negligence lawsuit.
Harm can include the progression of an injury or condition. Suppose test results reveal that cancer is spreading throughout a patient’s body, and the test results are communicated too late, causing the patient to undergo intensive treatment. In that case, the patient may show that they underwent unnecessary harm due to the negligent delay in reporting the test results.
What Causes Miscommunication of Test Results?
Communication problems may be a factor in up to 80% of medical malpractice cases. Failure to notify the patient of a test result, telling the patient of an incorrect test result, and failure to notify a referring clinician of test results are all common communication problems.
There is a general consensus among the medical community that lack of an effective test result tracking system, inadequate or incomplete documentation, failure by office staff to follow practice requirements, and growth in large diagnostic test volumes cause miscommunicated test results.
How Can I Protect Myself Against a Failure to Disclose?
You can take steps to make it more likely that you will always receive the results of your medical exams. You should always take such steps to protect yourself since errors can occur at many points during medical treatment.
To protect yourself, you should ask your doctor the following questions when you are facing any medical exam:
- What is the purpose of the medical exam?
- What particular condition are you trying to diagnose? (it is not uncommon for doctors to
- mistakenly attempt to diagnose the wrong condition)
- What type of information will the test provide?
- Are there other ways to obtain such information?
- What are the risks involved with the test? Any benefits?
- What should I do to prepare for the test?
- When will I receive the test results, and how do I access them?
- What steps should I take after the test?
The basic idea behind asking these questions is to get involved with the medical exam. Do not sit back and be passive. Instead, take active steps to ensure that your medical tests are properly conducted and that you receive the results, whether they are positive or negative. Ensuring your tests are properly conducted is important since the future of your health could depend on it.
Another way you can ensure that you remain informed of your medical test results is to make notes on your calendar of when medical test results should be released and communicated. If you have not heard from your doctor on that date, follow up and make sure they are updated on your treatment.
It is also very important that you keep all records and medical receipts. These records and receipts may be useful in reminding yourself and others what tests have been performed on you and what test results you are currently entitled to receive. Furthermore, these documents may be significant evidence if you do end up suing your doctor for failing to give your test results to you.
Do I Need a Lawyer if My Doctor Failed to Tell Me My Test Results?
If your doctor has failed to disclose your medical exam results, you may be entitled to legal relief. You should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible while the events are still fresh in your recollection. An attorney can help specify your course of action if you have been injured due to your doctor’s errors. Also, a lawyer can recommend alternative legal actions that might be appropriate for your claim.
Use LegalMatch’s services to find a personal injury lawyer in your area. Our services are confidential, and it’s free to schedule a consultation.