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Clin Chem Lab Med. 2018 Nov 8. pii: /j/cclm.ahead-of-print/cclm-2018-0634/cclm-2018-0634.xml. doi: 10.1515/cclm-2018-0634. [Epub ahead of print]

Communicating laboratory results to patients and families.

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Department of Family and Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Laval University, 1050 avenue de la Médecine, Pavillon Ferdinand-Vandry, Québec City, QC, G1V 0A6, Canada.
Office of Education and Professional Development, Laval University, Quebec City, QC, Canada.
Centre de recherche sur les soins et les services de première ligne de l'Université Laval (CERSSPL-UL), Quebec City, QC, Canada.
Research Centre of the CHU de Québec, Public Health and Optimal Health Practices Axis, Quebec City, QC, Canada, Phone: +418.656.2131 x3981, Fax: 418-656.2465.
Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


People are increasingly able to access their laboratory results via patient portals. The potential benefits provided by such access, such as reductions in patient burden and improvements in patient satisfaction, disease management, and medical decision making, also come with potentially valid concerns about such results causing confusion or anxiety among patients. However, it is possible to clearly convey the meaning of results and, when needed, indicate required action by designing systems to present laboratory results adapted to the people who will use them. Systems should support people in converting the potentially meaningless data of results into meaningful information and actionable knowledge. We offer 10 recommendations toward this goal: (1) whenever possible, provide a clear takeaway message for each result. (2) Signal whether differences are meaningful or not. (3) When feasible, provide thresholds for concern and action. (4) Individualize the frame of reference by allowing custom reference ranges. (5) Ensure the system is accessible. (6) Provide conversion tools along with results. (7) Design in collaboration with users. (8) Design for both new and experienced users. (9) Make it easy for people use the data as they wish. (10) Collaborate with experts from relevant fields. Using these 10 methods and strategies renders access to laboratory results into meaningful and actionable communication. In this way, laboratories and medical systems can support patients and families in understanding and using their laboratory results to manage their health.


clinical laboratory information systems; computer graphics; decision making; education of patients; electronic health record; humans; patient access to records; user-computer interface


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