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Knowing is Better Than not Knowing – When it Comes to Lab Test Results

Study demonstrates the benefits for patients and clinicians

September 9, 2015 (Toronto) – Many Canadians would like to be able to access their lab test results online and a new study suggests there are many other benefits to this service. A recent Social Research and Demonstration Corporation study, commissioned by Canada Health Infoway (Infoway), revealed that direct patient access to their lab results enhances the patient experience and reduces calls to doctors’ offices.

The study compared patients from British Columbia who first accessed their lab results through a secure online province-wide service, to a control group of B.C. patients who first received their results from their doctor. The report found that patients who use the online service are more likely to get the results and more likely to get them within a few days. They are also less likely to contact their doctor while waiting and are no more anxious once they get their results online than those who first get results from their doctor.

The study also included interviews with family physicians in B.C. to understand their experience with patients accessing their own lab results online. Overall, the majority of physicians stated that online results help patients monitor their own health and support them to be more proactive in their care.

A recently published study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) analyzed some of the full study findings and highlighted that while most patients who received their laboratory test results online reported little anxiety after receiving their results and were satisfied with the service, there may be opportunities to improve comprehension of results.

The highlights:

  • Those who accessed their lab results online were twice as likely to receive their results in a few days, compared to the control group who received their result from their doctor’s office.
  • While most patients said that they understood their results, those who first received their results online were less likely to report that they fully understood them, indicating a potential need for mechanism to support patient interpretation of test results.
  • The greatest potential benefit according to physicians interviewed, is the increase in patients’ level of engagement and sense of empowerment regarding their own health.
  • Patients who first received their results online were no more anxious after receiving the results than patients who received the results from their doctor or doctor’s office.
  • Patients living with chronic conditions, who accessed their most recent results online, reported significantly lower post-test anxiety than those in the comparison group.
  • This kind of service can also reduce calls and office visits - patients who viewed their results online report fewer calls to doctor offices seeking their results and fewer visits to doctor offices to receive results.

Quote:

“This report shows that digital health is empowering Canadians to be a partner in their own health care”, said Jennifer Zelmer, Executive Vice President, Canada Health Infoway. “The research points to benefits from online access to lab results for patients and clinicians, as well as ways to continue to strengthen future patient online services.”

For more information about the results, access the full study or read the article published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Infoway's Benefits Evaluation Program

To assess the impact of Canada’s investment in the adoption and use of digital health, Infoway undertakes regular monitoring and evaluation of investment projects by commissioning benefits evaluation studies to understand and communicate the impacts.

About Canada Health Infoway

Infoway helps to improve the health of Canadians by working with partners to accelerate the development, adoption and effective use of digital health across Canada. Through our investments, we help deliver better quality and access to care and more efficient delivery of health services for patients and clinicians. Infoway is an independent, not-for-profit organization funded by the federal government.

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For more information:

Karen Schmidt
Director, Corporate Communications
Canada Health Infoway
Tel: (416) 595-3167
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