How to Get Your Medical Test Results

When was the last time you had a medical test—anything from a blood test or a mammogram to a computerized tomography (CT) scan—and you didn’t hear back from the healthcare provider’s office with your medical test results?

Or maybe your practitioner told you they would call if there were a problem. Since you didn't hear from them, you erroneously assumed everything was OK.

Calling only for problems has been the practice of many medical professionals for many years. And it was probably mostly OK for many years, too, because healthcare providers were not squeezed for time in the ways they are now.

But today, that’s no longer true. More and more providers just aren’t making the calls or contacts that need to be made, and patients are paying the price.

man sitting alone in his living room on his phone.

Tony Anderson / Getty Images 

Studies show that patients do not always receive the medical test results they should be getting. Healthcare provider often fail to provide them, even when they turn up problematic results.

Patients need to step up. Yes—patients need to stay on top of their providers until they get the answers they need. You can even get our results directly from the lab where the test was done, if necessary.

How to Get Your Results

Take these steps:

  • Ask how soon the results will be ready. When you have a medical test, no matter what kind of test it is, ask how soon the results will be ready. You may be told 10 minutes, two days, or even a week. It’s not that you are trying to hurry anyone; you are only managing your expectations.
  • Ask how you will be notified of the results. They should tell you they will call you. From there, pin down when you can expect the phone call. You should expect to hear from them by the end of the day on which the results will be available.
  • If you are told that you will not hear unless there is a problem, reply that that’s not good enough. You would like notification no matter what the results are, positive, negative, normal, or abnormal.
  • Get the name and phone number of who can report your results to you. No matter what you are told about whether they will call or not, make sure to get the name and phone number of who can report your results to you, because, if you don’t hear from them, then it will be up to you to call and ask.
  • Call to get your results if the expected phone call time passes. If you don’t hear by the time they tell you that you will hear, call them. If they take a message and you don't hear back within a few hours, then call again. Continue to pursue those results until someone calls you with them.
  • Ask for a printed copy of the results. Ask that it be posted or emailed to you, or even faxed to you. You may want to ask the person who handles your testing paperwork to make a notation before you are tested so that they will know to provide the information even before you remind them.

The system is not set up to make it easy for providers to provide our medical test results to us, so we need to make sure we patients chase them down ourselves.

Federal Rule on Test Reporting

A rule has been enacted by the federal government, which requires labs to provide test results to patients who request them. The labs have up to 30 days to supply the results to patients, which they may do either electronically or on paper. The law took effect in October 2014.

Each lab will use its policies for making the request, so ask your lab what their protocol is, then follow it, if you want to get your results directly from them.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. White B. Four principles for better test-result tracking. Fam Pract Manag. 2002;9(7):41-4.

  2. Federal Register. CLIA program and HIPAA privacy rule; patients' access to test reports. February 6, 2014.

By Trisha Torrey
 Trisha Torrey is a patient empowerment and advocacy consultant. She has written several books about patient advocacy and how to best navigate the healthcare system.