Releasing test results directly to patients: A multisite survey of physician perspectives

Patient Educ Couns. 2015 Jun;98(6):788-96. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2015.02.011. Epub 2015 Feb 23.


Objective: To determine physician perspectives about direct notification of normal and abnormal test results.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey at five clinical sites in the US and Australia. The US-based study was conducted via web-based survey of primary care physicians and specialists between July and October 2012. An identical paper-based survey was self-administered between June and September 2012 with specialists in Australia.

Results: Of 1417 physicians invited, 315 (22.2%) completed the survey. Two-thirds (65.3%) believed that patients should be directly notified of normal results, but only 21.3% were comfortable with direct notification of clinically significant abnormal results. Physicians were more likely to endorse direct notification of abnormal results if they believed it would reduce the number of patients lost to follow-up (OR=4.98, 95%CI=2.21-1.21) or if they had personally missed an abnormal test result (OR=2.95, 95%CI=1.44-6.02). Conversely, physicians were less likely to endorse if they believed that direct notification interfered with the practice of medicine (OR=0.39, 95%CI=0.20-0.74).

Conclusion: Physicians we surveyed generally favor direct notification of normal results but appear to have substantial concerns about direct notification of abnormal results.

Practice implications: Widespread use of direct notification should be accompanied by strategies to help patients manage test result abnormalities they receive.

Keywords: Direct notification; Patient access to medical information; Test result notification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Australia
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine
  • Disclosure*
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Female
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Access to Records*
  • Physicians, Primary Care / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States