Patient's access to lab results; the remaining 5% and your practice

July 9, 2021

Dr. Paul Boucher, AMA President

PLEASE NOTE: The email version of this letter incorrectly stated Dr. Oksana Suchowersky's affiliation. It has been corrected in this version

Dear Members:

In this letter

  • What’s changing with patient access to sensitive lab results
  • What you may need to consider
  • How to learn more and get prepared - July 21 webinar

In February, about 95% of lab results became accessible to Albertans through Alberta Health’s My Health Records (MHR) portal, viewable through the My Personal Records (MPR) application. At that time, the majority of commonly ordered lab test results were made available, and more than 640,000 Albertans have registered to use the app since then.

The remaining 5% of lab results include more complex results in microbiology, pathology and genetics (excluding neuro predictive genetic testing which will continue to be available through genetics services). This planned expansion was previously considered and approved by the provincial Health Information Executive Committee with representation from AH, Alberta Health Services, the AMA, College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta, Alberta College of Pharmacists, Alberta College of Family Physicians, Primary Care Networks and the public. Microbiology results became available in June, pathology will be available in late August, and genetics in late August and September.

Here is a link to information about the current state, including features, benefits and other information such as Frequently Asked Questions.

What’s new

Patients will be able to see all results as soon as they are available, sometimes before their physician. While this was already the case for many results, it is a change with more sensitive lab results. The literature shows, however, that patients generally experience reduced overall anxiety with real-time release, even when the news is bad.

Physicians will need to be prepared for the impact that real-time access to these particular test results will have. There are implications in terms of pre-test counselling for: positive, negative, secondary or unexpected results; what happens in case of inconclusive testing; managing expectations; and implications for family members, e.g., with genetic testing. There will be workflow changes for physicians in clinics and/or hospitals. Connect Care also has a patient portal within MHR and understanding the similarities and differences will be important when helping patients to navigate both.

Helping to prepare

The AMA will co-host a webinar with AHS on Wednesday July 21 at 5 p.m. You are invited to participate. If you are unavailable to attend the live session, it will be recorded and archived on the AMA website a few days after the session.

The webinar features an outstanding panel of experts:

  • Dr. Brad Bahler – Family physician in Sylvan Lake, Medical Director for Accelerating Change and Transformation Program
  • Dr. Dave Sidhu – President, Section of Laboratory Medicine and general pathologist
  • Dr. Julie Lauzon – Clinical Associate Professor (University of Calgary) for Medical Genetics
  • Dr. Oksana Suchowersky – Professor of Neurology and Medical Genetics (University of Alberta), Director of the Neurogenetics and Predictive Testing Program.

Register for this webinar.

This CME-accredited webinar will address:

  • The physician-patient experience from the MHR February release
  • The two portals and their similarities and differences
  • Insights from the different sectors involved

The session will also help you consider your role in this new stage. For example, there are times when interpreting complex test results may best be done by another physician to help give patients additional understanding.

In this pandemic year, change has been constant for physicians and patients. The pace continues and has been a challenge for many of us. The AMA Board supports this patient-centered undertaking that empowers patients through increased access to their own health information, and we hope the webinar will be helpful for members. Please let me know your thoughts and experiences as we go forward.

Your comments are welcome in the following ways:

  • Communicate with me privately and directly by email if you would like a reply: president@albertadoctors.org
  • Comment publicly on this President’s Letter on the AMA website (please be aware that comments are public, i.e., not members-only, even if you are logged in as a member).

Sincerely,

Paul E. Boucher, MD, FRCPC
President, Alberta Medical Association

 

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