Nova Scotia·Health Hacks

When it comes to test results, no news doesn't always mean good news

Even in a world of electronic records, patients test results can go missing, says Mary-Jane Hampton. That's why the health-care consultant advises people to always follow up on their own.

Health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton shares her health hacks with CBC's Information Morning

Health-care consultant Mary Jane Hampton says people shouldn't be waiting in doctors' offices just to learn the results of a test. (Robert Short/CBC)

Even in a world of electronic records, patient test results can go missing, says Mary Jane Hampton. The health-care consultant's advice is that people take matters into their own hands and insist on getting their results — every time.

"No news isn't good news. No news is just no news," Hampton told CBC's Information Morning.

"So generally, doctors' offices have no way of tracking whether the result for a test has come back because you don't know what you don't know."

While patients often assume that everything runs smoothly at a medical clinic, it's actually the exception that a doctor will call if a test result doesn't come back on time, said Hampton.

She helped develop an online resource called MyHealthNS, which connects doctors and patients and lets them access test results, rather than having to meet face-to-face.

The government-funded portal was slow to catch on, but Hampton said there are now about 300 doctors using it. She encourages patients to ask their doctor to sign up if they haven't already.

"It brings the patient into that quality loop which is so important," she said.

In some cases, doctors will tell patients that if they don't get a call with test results, there's nothing to worry about.

In other cases, doctors will require patients to book an appointment to learn the results of a test, good or bad. While it ensures people know what their tests results are, Hampton insists going through an online portal saves valuable time.

MyHealthNS was slow to catch on, but Hampton says there are now about 300 doctors using the service. (iStock)

"It offends me to the core that there would be perfectly healthy people being told to schlep back into the doctor's office to sit in a sea of pestilence with other sick people only to be told they were perfectly healthy," she said.

Hampton said it's not only a waste of doctors' time.

"As patients in this supply-demand imbalance, we're just so grateful to get any contact with a health provider, we'll kind of accept anything that they ask us to do," she said.

With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning