The Obama administration has made a new federal rule that will allow patients in every state to get lab results back directly from the lab without going through their doctor. This rule will override all state legislation on the subject, even in those states that explicitly forbid direct lab-to-patient transfers. WaPo:
Consumer groups said the rule will empower patients and reduce mistakes. A 2009 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that providers failed to notify patients of abnormal test results 7 percent of the time. Other estimates have put that rate higher.“Providers are busy and overloaded, and this was an additional burden on them,” said Alice Leiter, policy counsel at the Health Privacy Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, which advocates for a more open exchange of information, particularly online.
These kinds of changes may seem like small potatoes, but direct patient-lab contact is part of a class of policies that have the potential to streamline health care, empower the consumer, and free doctors up for the kind of work they are typically most passionate about. A whole raft of fixes like this could in aggregate do more to make our system sustainable over the long term than the most fine-tuned tinkering with subsidy levels.