X-ray, CT, MRI results to be shared directly with Albertans through online health records tool
Effective March 20, results for diagnostic imaging tests — including an X-Ray, MRI or CT scan — will be uploaded directly to an eligible patient's MyHealth Records account following release from the test provider.
According to Alberta Health, this change is being made to provide Albertans with more access to their health information, and as an additional safety net for patient care within the system.
It also says it is being done in collaboration with Alberta Health Services, Alberta Medical Association and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta.
In 2019, Alberta Health began sharing a patient's lab results through the online portal and this is the next step.
"We are gradually moving away from what you could call, maybe, the more paternalistic model where the doctor tells you what you have and explains everything and tells you what you should do, towards more of a collaborative, shared decision-making approach where patients are going to be more savvy, more understanding and have a better awareness of their health, including results," said Dr. Eddy Lang, department head of emergency medicine in the Calgary zone.
According to an Alberta Health information pamphlet, the results will land at the same time as it does with the ordering physician — if not before — should that provider rely on fax or paper delivery.
Patients will be able to view their test results through the provincial government's My Personal Records (MPR) application, according to Alberta Health Services, which is part of the government's online portal for Albertans' health information, MyHealth Records.
"This government-led initiative means that as of March 20, eligible patients will also be able to view their diagnostic imaging test results through MyAHS Connect, provided they have access to that patient portal as a patient who has been seen at an AHS or AHS partner site using Connect Care," AHS said in a statement Monday.
"Previously, there was a five-day delay from the time physicians and other care providers received the results to when those results were released to patients in MyAHS Connect."
Lang says in the past, on occasion, patients have shown up in an emergency department on the weekend to ask about the results of their recent chest X-ray or other type of imaging test done in the community, knowing they wouldn't find out for a few more days yet. when they return to their family doctor or specialist.
He says now they won't have to wait.
"By having early specific awareness about what the results are, whether it be no fracture seen or no pneumonia or degenerative changes of the spine which goes with arthritis in the back — to have that knowledge is just, I think, more transparency and makes for more informed and engaged patients and family members," said Lang.
University of Calgary researcher and clinician, Dr. Doreen Rabi, has been studying the patient experience with electronic records in the province for several years. Her work helped design the province's online portal.
She says so far more than 500,000 Albertans have signed up for a MyHealth Records account.
She says the research would suggest that whenever there is an increased access to health information there is a learning curve.
"People will initially have a lot more questions about information they haven't previously seen and then once they sort of have developed a comfort and a confidence with reviewing that information, then we tend to see their need for healthcare interactions go down," said Rabi.
And she believes that initial uptick in the need for consultations may be difficult to access right now because she says the current health care system is under stress due to a backlog of surgeries, staff burnout and other issues.
"There's that possibility that there's going to be a lot of information available to individuals, but there may be a lack of supportive contact that will allow them to digest that information and apply it in a way that's really, really helpful," said Rabi.
Benefits outweigh risks
Lang believes the benefits of having access to more of a patient's medical information outweigh any potential risks.
He says some worry about the anxiety that may arise in a patient as they read their potentially life altering results alone.
But he says, generally, any test ordered by a doctor that would be looking to confirm or rule out concerns of a cancer diagnosis, for example, would have been discussed with a patient beforehand.
"While it's possible that it might be quite distressing to learn about this and not have a physician immediately there to explain it to you, I think patients for the most part should be able to to handle the information or at least within short order, within a couple of days, connect with the healthcare provider, even maybe by calling 811, find out ... what exactly this report means and what the implications are," said Lang.
Plus, he says, on the benefit side, having an extra set of eyes on the results will help ensure that they don't fall through the cracks, something he says is rare, but can happen.
"By informing the patient and having them aware of the findings and what further tests might be needed is helpful and and can ... ultimately serve the patient's best interest," said Lang.