Every year when I have

by francine Hardaway on September 14, 2006

Every year when I have a physical, I have a fasting blood cholesterol. For this, I race down to the lab at dawn, so I can have it over with and go on to Starbucks. Dawn this year for the lab was 7 AM, and there I was this morning, thinking I’d be first.

Nope. Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the nation, and it has the mother of all health care accessibility problems. At 7 AM, there were already fifteen people ahead of me in the waiting room. Between the crowds and the sparse amount of reading material in English, I felt like I was in a clinic in Africa, not the U.S. I’m old enough to remember when every medical office had at least a bunch of old National Geographic magazines. In this lab, all they had were pamphlets in Spanish about why to have your cholesterol tested or what diabetes is.

The day before I had made my quarterly pilgrimage to my family physician, and had a wait of almost an hour, which I filled by sitting on the floor and doing various yoga poses while reading a dog-eared copy of Smart Money. Now, I contemplated another equal wait, and I thought about going down on the floor again, but decided I was already hyperflexible; and besides, the people in this office don’t know me.

When I finally sat down in the phlebotomist’s cubicle, I asked her if I could get a copy of my own test results. Her answer? No. Very interesting. I pointed out to her that under HIPAA, my records were mine, and not the doctor’s. She agreed, but said it was the lab’s policy to release results only to physicians.

Why did this bother me?

Because I had this same test about six months ago at an orthopedist’s office as part of another routine workup. But the lab, the orthopedist, and the family physician apparently didn’t share the information, and the last lipid profile in my doctor’s folder was in 2004. I was ready to take personal responsibility for my health by personally carrying the test results to the physician’s office, but I’m not allowed to do so. Instead, I’m to wait 5-7 business days, which is code for two weeks, and then call my physician’s office for my results. Trust me, he’s a nice man, but he’s way too busy to call me.

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