Posted by Dr. Jason Wasserman on January 8, 2020
Have you ever received a pathology report from your doctor and wondered what everything meant? Did you go home and Google the medical terms? Were you frustrated that you couldn’t find what you were looking for, or that everything seemed to be intended for Americans? Now there’s an easier, safer, more reliable way to learn about your diagnosis, and the information is written by Canadians for Canadians.
My colleagues and I created the website MyPathologyReport.ca to give patients clear, understandable information about their pathology reports. All of the articles on MyPathologyReport.ca are written by Canadian pathologists in partnership with patient advisers.
As pathologists we recognize that our reports are complicated — even clinicians sometimes struggle to understand them — and we realize that more patients would soon be accessing them through patient portals like The Ottawa Hospital’s MyChart and the University Health Network’s myUHN, so we felt a responsibility to help them understand what they were reading.
After patients get their pathology report, they can go to MyPathologyReport.ca to look up their diagnosis or learn about unfamiliar medical words in our comprehensive dictionary. All of the articles provide plain language explanations for the most common information found in a typical pathology report. We provide education and try to steer them in the right direction, but we don’t provide a diagnosis or offer a second medical opinion.
The website has grown tremendously since its launch in 2017. We now have more than 100 articles posted, and more than 20 pathologists from across the country are active contributors. We have also collaborated with patients since the beginning, first through a patient focus group and now through patient advisers. They are continuing to give us invaluable advice to ensure that the website is meeting patients’ needs.
So far, more than 10,000 patients have accessed the website, and we expect that to grow as health care facilities become aware of it. For example, University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto is already including a link to MyPathologyReport.ca from within its patient portal, and several other facilities across the country are keen to get involved. The website will always be free and open to everyone, and we are starting to translate our articles into French.
Pathologists are usually behind the microscope instead of interacting with patients, so it’s very satisfying to us to be able to help patients through this website. Patients who understand their pathology report will have more informed discussions with their doctors about their diagnosis and next steps for treatment. We are glad to come out from behind the microscope to help!
That’s also why we support the ACCESS 2022 movement, which is about enabling better access to health information and to digitally enabled health tools and services. By working together, we will help transform health care in Canada.
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Dr. Jason Wasserman is a pathologist at The Ottawa Hospital, specializing in head, neck and endocrine pathology. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of MyPathologyReport.ca, an online pathology education resource for patients.