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Patient Spotlight: Accessing Imaging Reports Gave Norm Clarity on his Diagnosis

Norm, 70, wasn’t aware he had a hiatal hernia until he was able to see his X-rays for himself.

Norm, 70, wasn’t aware he had a hiatal hernia until he was able to see his X-rays for himself.

Norm was out deer hunting with a friend in early November when he came down with a persistent cough that forced him to scrap the trip and seek medical assistance.

The 70-year-old from Peterborough already had a history of bad coughs that quickly progressed into pneumonia. He feared what doctors would find when they took an X-ray of his chest.

The former conservation officer was already taking a greater interest in his health after experiencing pericarditis — a swelling of the fluid-filled sac surrounding the heart — a year earlier. This, coupled with a few unsettling stories from acquaintances, had him on high alert as he headed to the hospital.

“I’ve had friends of friends die because of symptoms not being diagnosed properly,” he said. I’m trying to take a closer look at my own health care. If something comes up that doesn’t make sense, I’ll ask questions. I’ve got a good cardiologist and family doctor — I totally rely on them — but it’s not going to prevent me from taking control of the things that I should be taking control of myself.”

Covering the bases

For Norm, a big part of this process was signing up for PocketHealth, which allowed him to quickly access his imaging results and instantly share them with others. The emergency doctor assured him that his cough wasn’t a sign of pneumonia, COVID-19 or anything else of real concern. It was just a regular respiratory illness complicated by asthma

But with the access PocketHealth gave him to his scans, he discovered a separate issue: Norm had a hiatal hernia that dated back at least eight years.

He would soon learn that a hiatal hernia occurs when a small portion of the stomach pushes through an opening in the chest cavity. For many patients, the condition presents no symptoms and requires no treatment. For others, it can produce symptoms similar to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), including heartburn, bloating and discomfort.

Instant X-ray Access

Feeling a little concerned by the discovery, particularly because of recent symptoms associated with hiatal hernia, Norm used his PocketHealth account to send an X-ray to his daughter, a radiology technologist, who confirmed the diagnosis and said she was surprised the issue had not been flagged. Norm quickly booked an appointment with his family doctor who explained that, although the hernia was known to them, they didn’t tell him about it because it was a minor issue that didn’t require treatment and would only have added unnecessary stress. 

“I was satisfied with his explanation,” Norm said. “Sometimes ignorance is bliss and I don’t need to overthink things — which I tend to do. So, it was almost like, ‘Thanks for saving me all that anxiety, Doc. And now that I’ve found out about it, you’ve allayed any concerns that I have and I think you dealt with me properly.’”

Charting a New Course

Seeing his scans for himself had a profound effect on Norm and his desire to stay engaged with his health. It empowered him to broach the hernia issue with his doctor and helped him make a potential connection with a new symptom of bloating that had arisen over the past six months.

“The fact that I had access to that information through PocketHealth gave me the opportunity to chat with my doctor about this and he satisfied my concerns,” he said. “But it also allowed us to move forward into examining this new symptom. So, it’s all good. And it wouldn’t have been possible without looking at those X-rays and the reports made available through PocketHealth.”

Now that he has been hands-on with it for a few weeks, Norm said he recommends PocketHealth to anyone who wants to be as informed as possible when doctors start prescribing treatments. In addition to sharing his results with others, he was able to use the platform’s built-in Report Reader to better understand the complex terminology that can accompany imaging scans and use this knowledge to ensure he did not fall through the cracks of a strained healthcare system.

“I’ve been in and out of my account several times over the past couple of weeks, sending something out to my daughter, printing off copies and storing them in the computer,” he said. “PocketHealth has helped me get the information that I’d been interested in getting for a while but was administratively complicated. 

“This makes it very easy.”

 

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