St. Vincent's One Nineteen's diagnostics department briefs patients and caregivers about what to expect for medical tests. (Contributed photo.)

St. Vincent’s One Nineteen’s diagnostics department briefs patients and caregivers about what to expect for medical tests. (Contributed photo.)

A St. Vincent’s One Nineteen physician offers his best test advice

By John Farley, M.D.

Students facing finals aren’t the only test-anxiety sufferers this month. As primary care physicians with Birmingham Internal Medicine Associates at St. Vincent’s One Nineteen, my colleagues and I regularly witness winces from patients while we explain why a medical test is essential to an accurate diagnosis.

We understand. We’ve had our share of test anxiety, too.

That’s why we encourage patients to ask questions about why we’re ordering tests. We’re eager to explain how diagnostics are used in their care. For specific questions about how to prepare for the tests we order, we often refer patients to the schedulers at One Nineteen’s diagnostics department. Those professionals can brief patients and caregivers on what they should know before they arrive. We also suggest accessing test-specific information and pre-registration online forms at

That sort of studying ahead helps. After all, no one wants their exam delayed because they either didn’t understand the instructions or didn’t take them seriously. While every patient should ask specific questions about their concerns, here’s what I suggest as a sort of all-purpose study guide for physician-ordered tests:

Ask the diagnostic department schedulers when – or whether – you should eat, drink or take medications beforehand.

  • If you must fast before an afternoon test, ask if you can simply skip lunch.
  • Confirm when you should arrive, how long you will be there and when you can resume regular activities.
  • Ask if you should confirm your insurance coverage.
  • Determine whether you’ll need to wear special shoes or clothing.
  • Find out if you’ll need someone to drive you home.
  • Learn when you should expect to receive the results.

And as helpful as doctors try to be, we can’t accommodate every patient request. Sometimes we’re asked to order blood tests before annual check-ups. But since insurance covers specific tests only when linked to specific, doctor-detected symptoms, we don’t order those tests ahead. We don’t want patients to incur uncovered expenses, and we don’t order unnecessary tests.

My colleagues and I have had our share of test anxiety. We understand how frustrating it can be to not know what to expect, or to be caught unprepared. That’s why we encourage patients and caregivers to always ask test-prep questions, preparing ahead for every exam.

Have questions? Contact One Nineteen’s diagnostics department: 408-6450.

Dr. John Farley is a primary care physician at St. Vincent’s One Nineteen, located at 7191 Cahaba Valley Road in Birmingham. For more information, visit