Most people want to learn about their skin biopsy results online

(Reuters Health) - Most people want to learn about their skin biopsy results over the internet - especially when they’re benign, according to new research.

People said their preferred method of finding out their skin biopsy results largely relies on the amount of information the clinician needs to relay and the amount of time it takes to receive the results, researchers report in JAMA Dermatology.

“We want to make sure we’re addressing the needs of the patients as best we can,” said senior author Dr. Charles Mitchell, of The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C. “Everyone is a bit different.”

Mitchell told Reuters Health that past research looked at how patients would like to receive skin biopsy results, but it largely included people who previously had the deadliest form of skin cancer known as melanoma. Therefore, their preferences may not apply to most people receiving benign results or other abnormal results.

For the new study, Mitchell and his colleagues asked 240 patients over age 18 years attending the dermatology clinic of George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates between January and June for a total body skin examination to complete a survey. Of those, 204 patients participated.

The survey asked about the patient’s basic demographic and medical information. The participants were also asked about previous skin biopsies and their preferences for learning the results.

Overall, participants said their top preference for learning their biopsy result was through an online portal, followed by a telephone call.

“People who used an online portal before were much more likely to prefer use of a portal in the future,” said Mitchell.

A majority of participants said their preference would change based on the results, however.

About 55 percent said they’d want to access their skin biopsy result through an online portal if it was benign. If the results were abnormal, about 69 percent would prefer to find out about it by telephone.

The study results are limited, though. They may not translate to other areas of the U.S. since the study only included a small number of educated people from a metropolitan area. Also, they didn’t collect information on the participants’ races or ethnicities.

Mitchell said he usually asks his patients how they’d like to receive their biopsy results.

“For patients who are signed up for the portal, I ask them if they would prefer a phone call or a message on the portal,” he said. People diagnosed with melanoma are not notified through the portal, however.

SOURCE: JAMA Dermatology, online December 7, 2016.