Two years ago, I got a blood test. I had been feeling sick after eating certain foods and thought there was a small chance it might be gluten intolerance, so I went to get my blood tested to find out. The test was done at a standard blood lab – you go in, they stick a needle in your arm and pull out more blood than you were hoping they would, and they let you know when the results are in.
When my results came in (a week or two later), they called me and told me I could drop by to pick up the results. It was also an opportunity to talk with them and find out what my results meant.
When I showed up, they gave me a 2-page printout, all black and white, that was almost impossible to understand (basically like this).
I understood the reason they had me come in to get the results instead of emailing them to me: there was no way I was going to understand them on my own – unless I wanted to spend hours learning how to interpret blood test results (which I didn’t).
“So, can you explain this to me?” I asked. And they basically said that I wasn’t intolerant to gluten and then pointed out a few things I should be aware of.
I have since forgotten all of those “things” they told me to be aware of, and have no idea where my blood test results printout is.
So, the point is – I think this whole process of getting results needs to be different. I have two suggestions:
Labs and doctors should send a digital copy of the lab results to all patients. It would have been much easier for me to save a digital copy of my results in a “Health” folder on my computer than to either hang on to a physical copy or to scan the physical copy and then save it on my computer. And if it was sent via email, I could just do a quick search and pull it up.
Make it simple for patients to keep their results
Design the lab results printouts so it is easy to read and easy to understand. I was going to create a mock-up of what this could look like, but I found that Steven Leckart at WIRED had already done something like this, and I think they did a great job:
Steve considered various medical lab reports and had three different designers create a new design of the reports that are easier to understand, and quite beautiful when compared to the standard black and white versions.
This is fantastic. These types of improvements are definitely needed for the personal health and medical industries. Even the explanations of blood tests are wordy and not friendly on the eye. Take these two examples: (example one, example two).
The needed improvements haven’t happened yet. But I believe they will.
Apple has made a push into this area with their Health apps and HealthKit tool for developers.
The Health app provides a simple dashboard of health and fitness data, acting as a hub for this type of data by aggregating and visualizing data from other sources (apps, for example).
I, for one, plan to use the Health app. Further, I plan to request copies of my data from all future doctor visits, lab tests, etc. AND I’m going to see if I can get a hold of data from my past checkups, tests, and doctors visits and keep track of it, specifically:
- Blood pressure readings and x-rays from recent visit to the podiatrist
- MRI of my lower back
- Blood test results
- Dental records and x-rays
- Results from physical for high school sports
- Any data I can get from my previous physical therapy
I’m excited to look be around as this space grows.