Medical groups push back on instant test result rules

The American Medical Association and other groups are pushing back on the instant test results rules, saying they can harm the physician-patient relationship and have unintended consequences, Politico reported Jan. 9.

The Department of Health and Human services proposed the rule in 2019. The regulation didn't go into effect until April 2021 in a limited scope and was then implemented in full in October. The rule is designed to bar health care organizations from hoarding patient data by requiring them to release test results as soon as they are received, according to the report.

Medical groups are pushing HHS to revise the rule so test results are delayed until a physician can speak with a patient. Under the current rule, some patients may receive news about potentially terminal disease before a physician can tell them.

Patients "are extremely angry and have had harms they're reporting from getting instant access," AMA President Jack Resneck said in the report. "We're seeing a parent who finds out at nine o'clock on a Friday night when they can’t reach anybody that their child's leukemia has recurred."

The AMA and other medical groups are beginning to find state legislators willing to weigh in on their behalf, but patient advocate groups continue to press for the rule to have few exceptions.

"That test result may be what someone needs in order to search for a clinical trial, an emergency second opinion, for a Social Security disability application or to connect with necessary community supports," Grace Cordovano, PhD, a board-certified patient advocate, told Politico.

Elise Sweeney Anthony, executive director of policy at HHS’s Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, wrote in a post to the agency's website that finding out she had breast cancer before talking with her doctor better prepared her for follow-up care. The early access allowed her to learn more about the specific cancer and talk to a friend who had also had breast cancer to prepare for a more productive doctor's appointment, she wrote.

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