Practice of Medicine


Communicating Lab and Diagnostic Report Results to Patients

Executive Summary

Informing patients of lab results or diagnostic test results is crucial for effective patient care. Providers must make reasonable attempts to contact patients with their test results.

Recommended Actions
  • Develop a policy for communicating lab results or diagnostic test results to patients in a timely manner.
  • When a patient is difficult to contact, reach out to the patient at least three times to provide them with their lab or diagnostic test results.

As a doctor it is your responsibility to communicate effectively with your patients, both during and in between appointments. Communicating lab results or diagnostic test results is crucial for effective patient care. It’s important that your medical practice or hospital has a clear policy for communicating these results in a timely manner.

If you’re having trouble contacting a patient concerning their lab or diagnostic results, MagMutual typically recommends contacting the patient on three separate and timely occasions: twice with a phone call and message and once with an email or letter. Take care to document each of your attempts to contact the patient — noting time, date and method of communication.

While this is a good general rule for practices to follow, each case needs to be considered separately. Depending on the specific circumstances (the patient’s condition, the nature of the test results, the urgency of the situation, etc.), the contact methods and frequency should be reevaluated and adjusted.

Lessons Learned:
  • Consider implementing a tracking system to follow up with patients after you receive test results that will prompt you to discuss results with the patient.
  • Consider adjusting patient contact to take into account their specific circumstances and the urgency of the situation.
Potential Damages

Failure to timely communicate test results to patients can delay necessary treatment that may lead to severe health risks. Although litigation regarding failure to communicate is relatively low, the cost of defending against such a claim can quickly add up. 


1. Healthcare organizations should have a clear policy for communicating lab results or diagnostic test results in a timely manner.
2. Providers only need to make one attempt to contact a patient with lab or diagnostic results.


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The information provided in this resource does not constitute legal, medical or any other professional advice, nor does it establish a standard of care. This resource has been created as an aid to you in your practice. The ultimate decision on how to use the information provided rests solely with you, the PolicyOwner.