Sometimes, waiting for your medical test results can cause more anxiety than the actual findings. That’s particularly true if you or your doctor suspects that you might have a problem. The longer you have to wait, the more worried you become. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are smart steps you can take to get your test results as soon as possible…

• Get immediate results. Immediate results may sound like a very high order, but they are possible. The key is to work closely with your doctor. It probably sounds obvious, but the first step is to let your doctor know that you want to get results as soon as possible—either good or bad news. This increases the chance that your doctor will pass results on quickly to you and that he/she will recommend a lab or center that is known for providing quick results.

Don’t assume that you have to wait…and wait. For imaging tests, such as mammograms and other scans, many imaging centers will give you the radiologist-reviewed results on the spot. Ask your doctor to recommend such imaging centers in your area. Or call several centers near you and ask what their policies are on giving patients immediate results. Other centers will let you know if everything is OK but tell you to contact your doctor if there is a problem. In that case, you should immediately call your physician to discuss the results. My story: When an MRI of my brain found I had a tumor a while back, the results were sent to my physician while I was at the imaging center, and we talked on the phone while I was still there about the next steps. 

• Find out when results will be available. Of course, not all test results are immediately available. Blood work and other types of tests, such as tissue analysis of a biopsy, can often take several days or even weeks to be analyzed by a pathologist or other medical professional. And quite often your doctor will need to review the results and even discuss them with the pathologist and/or other physicians to make an accurate interpretation of the results. But you can still help move things along by calling your doctor’s office as soon as you have completed the test. Let the office know what test you had…where it was done…when it was done…and the best way to reach you as soon as the doctor has the results. Again, let the doctor’s office know that you want the results as soon as possible. Note: If you have a condition, such as cancer, that may require frequent tests and/or biopsies that tend to take a long time for results, be sure to ask your doctor at your follow-up appointments if any future tests are likely or needed and if you should have them sooner rather than later.    

• Go online. Most major hospitals and large medical practices, along with laboratories and imaging centers that are owned or affiliated with them, now make test results available to the patient online at the same time they become available to the doctor. Important: The onus is on you to sign up or register for this service. Ask the doctors, hospitals, labs and imaging centers that you use if they offer such online services and how you can enroll. Helpful: After you have a test but before you get the results, schedule an appointment with your doctor to go over the results. Note: Some doctors prefer to do this over the phone, which is fine. But be sure to speak directly with the doctor, especially if the results are worrisome.