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Making Lab Results Meaningful for Patients

Patients are increasingly accessing their lab results through electronic medical record portals. Lab tests account for 94% of the data in a patient's health record. Pathologists and lab testing inform 70% of all medical decisions. As such, it is natural that pathologists should ensure patients and families understand their results. The shared decision model where the informed and engaged patient works with their provider to navigate this array of data and create a personalized care plan is becoming increasingly popular.

In a recent paper, ten recommendations were proposed for health systems to make lab results more understandable and actionable for patients. These include:

1. Whenever possible, provide a clear takeaway message for each result2. Signal whether differences are meaningful or not3. When feasible, provide thresholds for concern and action4. Individualize the frame of reference by allowing custom reference ranges5. Ensure the system is accessible6. Provide conversion tools along with results7. Design in collaboration with users8. Design for both new and experienced 9. Make it easy for people use the data as they wish10. Collaborate with experts from relevant fields Pathologists should take the lead on working with their health systems to implement these recommendations.

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