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Aster's avatar

Why would a doctor refuse to tell a patient anything about his biopsy results over the phone?

Asked by Aster (19984points) August 9th, 2011

I have a friend who had a biopsy of a lump in his esophagus. He called the office for the results twice and they refused to reveal a thing; said he had to come into the office. Is this legal? Typical?

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5 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

It’s not unusual for a doctor’s office to reveal the results of important medical tests strictly in person. There is the chance that a patient will assume the worst and do something serious, if they hear news over the phone. Similarly, A patient may assume that a doctor’s office only gives good news over the phone, and when they hear they have to come in for the results, will do something serious.

The policy of giving the results strictly in person is a good one.

I once had an office staff member give me the results of a very serious test right at the front counter where everyone in the waiting room could hear. I could therefore assume that had the results been different, I would have been called to the back for the bad news. This would have resulted in a lot of stress and worry for me.

I hope that makes sense. I’m not sure I’m being very clear today.

Aethelflaed's avatar

It might depend on the office’s privacy policy. They might take extra precautions to make sure they aren’t giving out any patient healthcare information to someone who isn’t the patient.

It could also be bad news, or complicated, or require follow-up. Those should always, always be given in person.

It’s totally legal, and not uncommon.

Aster's avatar

So if the test results are negative, and its good news, they would be more likely to reveal this fact? I mean, surely they can verify the patient by asking his SS number, address, etc

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Aster Mmmm, no. Not really. It could be a family member who would know all that stuff, and still isn’t the patient. For the most part, doctor’s aren’t trying to screen out random people, because random people usually don’t try to get the medical info of someone they don’t know. They’re trying to prevent the patient’s parents, or sister, or ex-spouse, or close friend from getting the info, because they’re the ones who try to.

They might release good news over the phone, but it all depends on their office policy. They might have a policy of not releasing any info if the patient calls themselves, only if they call the patient. Or they might require the patient to first sign a form saying it’s ok for them to release info to the patient over the phone. It all depends on that specific office’s policy.

Seelix's avatar

A lot of doctors won’t reveal test results over the phone, whether they’re positive or negative or whatever. I had an HIV test 10 years or so ago and they refused to give me the results over the phone, which terrified me, but I tested negative.

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