Nolan Health Test Bill Passes Assembly

April 14, 2003

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan announced that legislation she sponsored to create new requirements for patient notification with regard to medical tests has unanimously passed the Assembly.

The bill, A.5408, would add a new section to the public health law to require laboratories to notify patients when the results of medical tests or laboratory work were made available to the health care practitioner who ordered the test.

“Delays in receiving test results and, therefore, an appropriate diagnosis, allow diseases which are easily treated in their early stages to progress unnecessarily, thereby threatening patients’ health and lives. This bill deals with these life-threatening issues by requiring that patients be notified when their health care provider has received their test results. With some screening tests, patients are notified only when their tests show signs of disease. Hearing nothing, patients naturally assume their tests are negative,” said Nolan.

“Several years ago, thousands of women belatedly learned, months to over a year after they had a Pap test taken, that their tests had been languishing in a city laboratory. For women who ultimately tested positive for cervical cancer, this unconscionable delay would not only be frightening but quite possible life threatening,” said Nolan.

“This bill takes note of another potential problem regarding patient notification. A laboratory must have processed a patient’s test in a timely manner, but the physician may be backlogged and so not have informed the patient of a positive result. As early diagnosis is crucial for treatment of many diseases, any delay in notifying patients that they need to undergo further examination is unjustifiable. By requiring laboratories to send notification to the patient we hope to somewhat alleviate what, to patients, is now an interminable waiting period,” said Nolan.

The bill now goes to the Senate where it awaits action.