Where Medical Reports Go to Die.

It happens thousands of times a day, all across the country. People go to their doctor’s office after some testing has been performed. The physician, unaware that any testing has been ordered by another physician, asks their usual questions. The patient, awaiting an opinion rendered on the recently performed test begins to answer the doctor’s questions with increasing impatience and trepidation, fearing the worst. “Why is he asking so many questions. . . why is he not telling me the results? Did my cholesterol panel show cancer?” And finally the question comes to the fore;

“ Doctor did you get my test results?”

“No, what test did you have”

“But I told them to send it to you!!”

If you’ve ever been to a doctor, chances are this has happened to you. And if you’re a physician, you’ve been on the other end of this conversation numerous times. No one knows where all these reports that have been sent to physicians’ offices have gone to. Some of the best minds of our generation have been stumped by this mystery. There is some speculation, that when Geraldo Rivera finally got into Al Capone’s vault he found tens of thousands of pap smear reports and referring physician letters ending in, “thank you so much for allowing me to take part in your patient’s care” But alas, Geraldo hasn’t said a word, and there are rumors that he’s been forced to keep his his mouth shut by Big Fax.

But we here at caduceusblog, were not satisfied with that answer. Through sophisticated techniques of investigative reporting that we learned in correspondence school, we have busted the door open on the mystery of what happens to faxed medical reports. This is an important question because, as I have wrote about previously, the electronification of medical records will not solve the problem. Since disparate systems used by different hospitals and physicians offices can not communicate with each other, they will still rely on faxing and then personnel to scan that faxed information into the electronic chart.

As it turns out, the reason your faxed reports don’t reach your physician is alot simpler than we thought. You see, when you ask your physician or lab, etc… to fax your report there’s a 50% chance that they’ll forget to ask someone at the front desk to send a report to your doctor. Even if they do remember, there’s a 50% chance that the person they ask will forget. If that person does actually remember, well, then there’s gonna be a 50% chance that there will be a paper jam. When your doctor’s office receives the fax there’s a 50% that it will sit on the fax machine for several days before falling into a pile of clutter that is eventually filed in a round paper basket. If it does come to someone’s attention, there is a 50% chance that the person will put it on someone else’s desk to be filed in the patient’s chart. There is then a 50/50 chance that said person will place it in the patient’s chart, or at the bottom of a birdcage to catch parakeet droppings. Thus we are left with the strange situation wherein the nation’s physicians have as much access to their patients information as the nation’s parakeets. In other words, if your doctor somehow, against all odds does receive your faxed medical report. . .congratulations! In such a situation, you should take advantage of your incredible run of good fortune, and consider playing the lottery tonight. And if your doctor hasn’t received the report, well chances are good that there’s a parakeet around that might know something.

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