Saturday, April 6, 2013

Out of the Reference Range

My oncologist's office doesn't include a reference range with bloodwork results. This means patients can see their complete blood count results but will have nothing to compare them to. If a result is flagged as high or low, there is no way to know how high or low it might be.

Useless, no?

Apparently the front office people at this office think it makes perfect sense and told me so. That's the way they do it, they said, and if I want the range, I can go over to the hospital and request it from medical records.

What? A range is not protected information. It is vital information, however. And it is information I need right alongside my bloodwork. I'm not going anywhere else for that information. It needs to come from my oncologist's office at the time I'm presented with the results.

Even doctors and nurses wouldn't know what to do without the range.

But I was laughed at for insisting that they give me the range and for asking them to pass along my suggestion that they provide this information for every patient--that bloodwork never go out without it.

After I didn't leave, they finally checked with a nurse. Apparently, nurses can print a version of the results that also lists the range. Just like I, and any other person in the world, would or should want.

What this tells me is that most oncology patients, maybe most patients, don't actually ask to see a printed copy of their blood results--or any test results. Most of us, I guess, are happy to wait until that postcard either arrives or doesn't arrive in the mail to tell us we're good enough.

Sorry folks, I'm here to tell you that doctors don't always follow up. Sometimes they forget you and your test completely. So to assume it's okay because you haven't heard is dangerous. And to think that a postcard tells the whole story is misguided as well.

I've had too many tests that matter too much to leave this in anyone else's hands but my own. I always want all the results, and I'd suggest others think about it, too.

Along those lines, I have a call in to the office manager to make sure that everyone who does take an active role in their health has the correct tools for the job.

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