There are many things about our health-care system that cause anxiety. Issues such as getting a reasonably quick appointment with a specialist or the cost of an expensive prescription medication not fully covered by your health plan are just two examples of health-care matters that cause angst in us all.

But more than anything else that bugs us about the health-care system, there is nothing more irritating than waiting forever for medical test results. Over the years, more people have complained to me about slow test-result reporting than any other health-care issue.

Let’s put this into perspective. It’s estimated that more than 12 billion (yes, billion) laboratory tests (such as blood tests or urine analysis) are ordered and analyzed each year in the United States. Add to that millions of diagnostic tests (such as MRI and CT scans, x-rays, and biopsies). Medical testing is the basis of diagnosing and appropriately treating most medical conditions. Almost every visit we have with a physician or medical clinic includes a medical test or ends with an order written to get one or more tests.

With that volume of testing, it’s not surprising that prompt reporting of medical test results might be difficult to maintain. Any given physician’s office may receive dozens of test results in just one day, making it almost impossible to review the results in a timely manner and contact you. Labs can easily get backed up, and specialists who analyze diagnostic tests can only carefully handle a set number of MRIs, biopsies, or x-rays on any given day.

However, despite these barriers to prompt test reporting, there are ways you can get your test results expeditiously. Here are some tips:

Online reporting—Most medical laboratories report their findings to doctors electronically over the Internet. They are also capable of sending the same results to you. The same is true for hospitals or medical centers that do diagnostic tests, such as MRIs, mammography, or x-rays. Look for labs and diagnostic centers that will report directly to you via the Internet or their own portal. Make sure you ask the doctor who is ordering the test to grant permission for the lab or testing center to report results to you. By using direct contact, you will get results at the same time your doctor receives them.

Contacting your doctor’s office—If you are unable to electronically get direct test results from the lab or diagnostic center, or you choose not to, here’s another tip to get timely results. When you are getting the test, ask the technician when your doctor should expect the results. Call your doctor’s office on the day the tech indicated and ask if they have received the results and what the results showed. This is a way to make sure your test results move to the top of the pile. Don’t hesitate to follow that call with another the next day if the results have not been received.

Get tested early in the week—If possible, have your test done early in the week (and even early in the day). Weekends slow the reporting process down since most doctor’s offices are not open on weekends or are not fully staffed. Getting tested early in the week helps to ensure that your test results are reported to you in a timely fashion.

Be persistent—Don’t hesitate to call the lab, diagnostic center, or your doctor if you are not getting test results in a reasonable time frame. While a biopsy may take several weeks to analyze, a routine blood test could take as little as a day to have results available. Let them know you are waiting for your results.

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