Recently I went to the Emergency Room for extreme pelvic/abdominal pain. Of course, as I was waiting to be seen, I consulted Dr. Google to figure out what was wrong with me. Essentially I determined that I was either totally fine, or about to need emergency surgery. While I do have a degree in biology and try not to get worked up about medical concerns, my mind couldn’t help but wander and try to prepare for the worst case scenario.
The ER doctors were great, and performed their normal routine testing. Physical exam, blood draw, ultrasound, and so on.
As I waited in my hospital bed, I finally began feeling comfortable after a nice dose of morphine. I opened up my patient portal app on my phone, and saw that my blood test results were already available. Luckily everything was normal, so I figured the doctors probably wouldn’t be back until the results of my ultrasound. Sure enough, an hour or so later they came in to inform me that there was a mass on my ovary. While the ER doc said it was likely a cyst, they couldn’t be sure and I needed to follow up with my OB/GYN.
Of course no one wants to hear "you have a mass," but I tried like hell to take the doctors at their word that it was most likely a cyst. I logged back into the patient portal app after I was discharged, to find that my radiology report was "pending" for four more days. I was a bit confused by this. The ER physicians obviously had the results, so why was the report still pending?
The Waiting Game
Here's where I admit to checking the app every hour for the next four days, thinking it would magically be updated. In between checking the app and praying for an update, I was back with my old buddy Dr. Google, trying to self-diagnose what was wrong with me. My sensible side knew this was ridiculous, because I didn't even know what the ultrasound was showing. But the other side of me couldn't deny a deep fear that something was wrong.
About an hour before my follow up with my OB/GYN, I was starting to have an anxiety attack because I'd convinced myself that I had cancer. Why else would the radiology report take so long to be finalized? I had visions of dying, leaving my husband a widower and my four small children without a mother. Even in that moment, I knew this train of thought was ridiculous, but especially given that I’m living in the pathology world and always talking about cancer in my job capacity, I just couldn't shake that fear.
I was literally sweating in the OB/GYN's waiting room, and of course they were running late. I was called back to an exam room 20 minutes after my appointment time and was finally starting to feel better, knowing I was about to get answers. Then I heard the doctor go into another patient room to start that visit. So I started sweating again, furiously checking the app and refreshing, thinking that finally I might see my radiology report. Another 20 minutes later my doctor came in, read the radiology report to me, and told me he'd print me a copy. After an exam, my doctor said it was likely just a hemorrhagic cyst and should resolve on its own. AKA: ”You’re fine, this is normal, stop panicking.”
So of course, I felt ridiculous for stressing all this time. Also, at this point I now had a hard copy of my radiology report. Fun fact: it finally showed up in the app as I was leaving the doctor’s office (great timing, huh). I felt reassured by my doctor and with my report in-hand, felt equipped to properly research. I looked everything up and it all made sense with what my doctor told me, so I began to feel much better.
Faster Results = Less Anxiety
My big takeaway (besides avoiding Dr. Google if possible) was that I was really stressing because I didn’t have my radiology results. I wanted to have all of the information, and that unresolved report made space for a lot of fear to creep in. I didn’t understand why it was taking four days, when I knew the ER docs had the information. It left so much time for me to worry and invent worst-case scenarios in my mind that made an already worrisome situation become a source of high-level anxiety.
Once I was able to relax, confident in my diagnosis, I realized how this personal experience connects to what we do here at Voicebrook. While we create pathology reporting solutions, it's about way more than just software. At our core, it's about people, and helping patients get results. My brief time of anxiety over my test results made it crystal clear to me... when a patient is playing that waiting game, the lack of information and the scariness of the unknown can be nearly debilitating. When we can reduce turnaround time and get those reports and results out faster, we can put patients' minds at ease. No matter whether the news is good or bad, just knowing is half the battle. It gets every patient on the road to recovery faster.