As a physician, I was especially blessed to have first majored in Bacteriology and Public Health with an emphasis in laboratory medicine rather than Zoology as most premed students in my day. This gave me a distinct advantage when it came to interpreting the lab results in clinical medicine when we hit the floors running as third year medical students. A quick glance gave me information that other students had to spend time decifering.
In the office today,Â I have made a point to NOT give lab results over the phone or even to mail the patient a copy. They have no clue as to what each one means. They don’t know a BUN from an AST. And what does “All your lab tests were normal” mean to them? Nothing. I have every patient back in the office to see them side by side for a detailed, but brief explanation of whatÂ each of the resultsÂ mean. AND, my patients love it! Rarely have I had anyone complain. When I have stuck to my guns, they are always glad to have received the personal tour of interpreting them together.
The review goes something like this: “Your WBC is normal so that means you don’t have leukemia. Your hemoglobin and hematocrit are normal so that means you do not have anemia. That means you are not bleeding from somewhere and that you are getting enough iron, B12 and folate. Your calcium is normal so that means you are eating enough dairy products.” Â You get the picture.
Try this! It is great! And I get paid for it! The patient comes for a positive office visit rather than a “something else is wrong again” visit. It allows me to have a wonderful conversation with the patient when they are not sick and hurting. They always leave happy, glad to have had a few moments to share good news together, and especially glad that the occasional bad news wasn’t given over the telephone.