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Taking Charge of Your Health Care in Rhode Island

When it comes to your health, you should not take any chances. In order to make the best decisions, you need to have all the information available; but nowadays, with the changes in modern medicine, we are often left waiting for doctor's offices to call us when we should be calling them. Waiting for test results can be a dangerous game.

Errors in patient diagnoses account for 40 percent of all medical malpractice claims. A good proportion of these claims stem from the failure of medical personnel to pass along test results to patients. With malpractice payouts due to communication failures more than quadrupling over the period from 1991 to 2010, getting your test results has never been more important.

The Changing Role of Patients

Some doctors are calling for patients to take a more active role in their health care. American Academy of Family Physicians president Dr. Glen Stream states that by doing so, patients can participate in their own "culture of safety." He suggests that patients should expect test results even in the instances where they come out to be completely normal. Dr. Stream also suggests asking a doctor what tests are being performed and specifically asking when to expect the results. Make sure you encourage your doctor to spell out everything to your satisfaction.

National Patient Safety Foundation president Diane Pinakiewicz suggests that if you are having multiple tests done by different providers, make sure to ask your doctor from where you should expect the results. Also, she suggests that if online resources are available for viewing results, to definitely sign up.

In any event, the best thing a patient can do is to be vigilant in finding out the results of any medical testing. Do not sit around waiting for a doctor to call when that might never happen. While no news may be good news, it's better to confirm the good news than to assume it is such. Also, make sure that test results are fully explained, no matter what the case may be. Taking charge of your health care may be the most important decision you make.

Source: NPR, "Test Results: Too Important To Wait For A Doctor's Call," 29 November 2011

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