New Brunswickers can now see their blood test results online

Exploring the advantages and disadvantages of the feature amid the province’s growing healthcare crisis

On January 11, the New Brunswick Department of Health released a new online feature that allows residents to personally access their blood test results. This program has been implemented during New Brunswick’s ongoing healthcare crisis, and at a time when 85% of New Brunswickers believe the healthcare system is in either fair or poor condition, according to a survey done last fall. Access to primary caregivers is also a growing concern in the province. Those with the privilege of having a family doctor have to wait up to three weeks to be addressed for an urgent need, based on the same survey. With that being said, how could this new service alleviate these problems? Here’s what two fellow Mt. A. students had to say.

“The biggest advantage to this new program is [that it gives New Brunswickers] the opportunity to be […] more involved with their health,” says fourth-year Political Science student Grace Tarrant, from Fredericton, NB. “The state of the healthcare system is frail and New Brunswickers are finding it more and more difficult to both keep a family doctor and get in touch with their family doctor given the increased wait times and backlog,” Tarrant continued.

On the other hand, Jasmine Ouellette, a second-year student from Edmundston, NB, “[doesn’t] think there is anything beneficial about it.” One feature of the system is that it can identify whether components of your blood are within specified normal ranges, but Ouellette says that seeing these numbers can still produce anxiety.

“Even if people see the results online, you’re not a doctor, so you won’t know how to interpret them. What might be normal for some people might not be normal for other people,” she remarks. “You are going to jump to conclusions, unless they specifically say there is nothing wrong, and assum[e] the worst even if it’s not a big deal,” she explains. “So yeah, I don’t think it’s really a good idea to see them; I know I would jump to conclusions seeing results.”

Ouellette is also particularly concerned about how this feature might complicate the already overloaded healthcare system and result in less attention to sick people.

“All the [medical] staff are going to be answering phones from people panicking about their results online,” Ouellette says. “They’ll try to reassure them and spend a lot of time doing that instead of taking important phone calls,” she added. “I think it will make the healthcare crisis New Brunswick is experiencing right now worse,” Ouellette commented.

Although the feature was designed to help give New Brunswickers some control over their own health, it won’t necessarily decrease the number of people who need access to their healthcare provider about their blood test results. Adam Bowie, a spokesperson for the program, mentioned that it is always important for patients to discuss results with their family doctor or nurse practitioner like you would after any test or examination. Unfortunately, access to healthcare is still a huge concern, with Tarrant explaining that “there are many people in the province that do not even have a family doctor.”

Another point of concern shared by Tarrant was the wait time for bloodwork results. “I have had bloodwork done many times and while it is easy for me to get in contact with my family doctor, I often have to wait a few weeks to get an appointment over the phone to discuss the results,” she says. “The longer wait times definitely do not help with my health anxiety,” Tarrant added.

So, could this new service improve wait times? Ouellette doesn’t think so.

“One of the advantages could have been that it would save time,” she mentions. “I don’t see how it would make your results come in faster. The doctors or nurses are going to take your [blood] to the lab, and the results come back when they come back. The doctors are either going to call you or put it online,” Ouellette elaborates. “If it was faster, then I’d be all for it, for sure, but I don’t see how it could take less time. It would be great if you could get [results] within a week. […] I just don’t think it’s really possible with our healthcare system right now.”

Another important aspect of the new program is accessibility. The online blood test results can be accessed on MyHealthNB, which was originally created for New Brunswickers to view their COVID-19 PCR test results. Ouellette explains how technology could be a barrier for some.

“First of all, not everyone is good with technology, especially older people. Older people are going to get a lot of blood tests, so they should be able to access it,” she mentions. “Also, there are a lot of glitches with technology, which just adds technical issues on top of it,” she adds. “I’m all for technology and I think we should take advantage of it when we can. In this case, I don’t think the system will make [healthcare procedures] any simpler,” Ouellette finishes.

Alternately, Tarrant finished her interview with an optimistic outlook. “I think that there are many benefits that come with the advancement of technology, such as being able to advocate for yourself and your health more quickly and easily,” she describes. “I think [the new feature] could help New Brunswickers feel a little more in control of their health during a time of crisis. It also helps individuals keep better documentation of their health results to [more easily] address future concerns if they arise,” she concluded.

The Department of Health hopes to add more personal health information to MyHealthNB in the future, including immunizations, medication profiles, and other lab results.

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