Improving the Understanding of Test Results by Substituting (Not Adding) Goal Ranges: Web-Based Between-Subjects Experiment. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Most displays of laboratory test results include a standard reference range. For some patients (eg, those with chronic conditions), however, getting a result within the standard range may be unachievable, inappropriate, or even harmful. OBJECTIVE: The objective of our study was to test the impact of including clinically appropriate goal ranges outside the standard range in the visual displays of laboratory test results. METHODS: Participants (N=6776) from a demographically diverse Web-based panel viewed hypothetical glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) test results (HbA1c either 6.2% or 8.2%) as part of a type 2 diabetes management scenario. Test result visual displays included either a standard range (4.5%-5.7%) only, a goal range (6.5%-7.5%) added to the standard range, or the goal range only. The results were displayed in 1 of the following 3 display formats: (1) a table; (2) a simple, two-colored number line (simple line); or (3) a number line with diagnostic categories indicated via colored blocks (block line). Primary outcome measures were comprehension of and negative reactions to test results. RESULTS: While goal range information did not influence the understanding of HbA1c=8.2% results, the goal range only display produced higher levels of comprehension and decreased negative reactions to HbA1c=6.2% test results compared with the no goal range and goal range added conditions. Goal range information was less helpful in the block line condition versus the other formats. CONCLUSIONS: Replacing the standard range with a clinically appropriate goal range could help patients better understand how their test results relate to their personal targets.

published proceedings

  • J Med Internet Res

altmetric score

  • 9.45

author list (cited authors)

  • Scherer, A. M., Witteman, H. O., Solomon, J., Exe, N. L., Fagerlin, A., & Zikmund-Fisher, B. J.

citation count

  • 12

complete list of authors

  • Scherer, Aaron M||Witteman, Holly O||Solomon, Jacob||Exe, Nicole L||Fagerlin, Angela||Zikmund-Fisher, Brian J

publication date

  • October 2018