Demystifying Medicine One Month at a Time

DIY Medicine Gets a Step Closer

As with other industries, the Do-It-Yourself movement has come to health care—and it’s getting stronger.

Unlike engine repair, craft brewing, or laying sheetrock, the barriers to entry for DIY-ers in health care are higher. The main barrier, medical knowledge, is lowering fast as autodidacts have more tools and information than ever before—as but two good examples, see Khan Academy or what’s known in the Twittersphere as #FOAMed–“Free Open Access Medical Education.”

Another big barrier has long been established by those that pay for health care–in the U.S., primarily insurers. They’ve had rules mandating that diagnostic testing be ordered by physicians, who then ‘control’ the results.c767d9a6

Last week, in a victory for self-motivated patients, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a ruling giving patients the right to obtain lab results on their own from freestanding diagnostic labs–without needing the interpretation or control of information from a medical provider.

This is not likely to have a huge impact, as many if not most medical practices have adopted electronic health records and it’s now common practice to share test results directly with patients.

But for laggards that have not implemented secure data-sharing policies, a major incentive is now there as patients will be able to collect data back from the lab on their own. Much better from the provider perspective to get out in front of an ‘abnormal’ result.

How about you? Do you get your results from your doctor automatically, or do you wind up having to hunt them down? Does this new ruling make you more excited to take control of your own health information?


  1. Sandy Sober

    Yes, I’ve received my lab results for a couple of years. What it does for me, it that it allows me to review the info and organize my questions and concerns before my meeting with my doctor. My new doc is great, but previously I always felt that if my “fast-forward” face-to-face time was any indicator, (s)he had only given my labs a cursory glance and recommendation(s) were inadequately considered before turning toward the next patient.

    The really big deal will be when patients can order their own labs.

  2. glasshospital

    Oh, it’s out there. Here is but one–note all the caveats in the FAQ:

  3. Ray Collins

    You are the only person I have read who gives this very negative interpretation to the ruling. Everyone else who has posted has emphasized that the ruling extends patient access to their lab results when the tests are done outside a clinic or hospital.

    So I ask myself, are you a prophet crying in the wilderness, or are you expressing your bias?

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