Verbal Report v. Actual Report: What’s the Difference?


Imagine this genetic testing scenario, two days after you send in your patient’s sample, you receive a call from Lab A, which provides a preliminary verbal report for the test you ordered on your patient. Three days later you receive your patient’s written preliminary report. Finally, 2-10 days after the preliminary report, you receive the final report for your patient that has the complete result and supporting information. To sum this up, it has taken around 1-2 weeks for you to receive a complete written report that could help guide treatment and medical management for your patient. Within that timeframe, a miscommunicated result from a verbal or incomplete report can redirect a patient’s life.

Now, imagine that same scenario with a different laboratory. You have submitted your patient’s sample to Lab B. This lab prioritizes efficiency and returns a written report in five days, ensuring that the test results are communicated quickly and accurately. This difference, which can be up to 2 weeks, between Lab A and Lab B can significantly impact your patient’s medical management and prevent a diagnostic odyssey. By choosing Lab B, in five days you can receive clear and complete documentation for all providers involved in your patient’s care.

Communicating the results of a genetic diagnosis is an important task for all healthcare providers. As the health status of a patient is passed from one clinician to another, it is imperative to ensure that all test results shared are consistent and accurate.

Baylor Genetics has been operating for over 40 years, and we understand that your patient’s diagnostic odyssey can be long and arduous. A delayed diagnosis can be detrimental for all involved, including the patient, their family, and the physician. Additionally, patients seeking a diagnosis speak with an average of eight physicians and spend up to five to seven years searching for answers.3,4 In 2018, it was estimated that up to 40% of patients who don’t obtain an accurate diagnosis receive insufficient care, spend more time in the hospital, and are more likely to have a poor prognosis.2 Unfortunately, the correlation between inaccurate results and medical mismanagement of patients is evident and emphasizes the importance of preventing the spread of misinformation.

By providing further insight into our genetic testing and reporting processes, we hope to alleviate any concerns you may have about how we communicate our test results.


A verbal report is communicated from the performing laboratory to the healthcare provider such as a doctor or genetic counselor over the phone. Verbal reports are not as common in the genetics industry as in other healthcare industries, where an immediate test result may be necessary to treat a life-threatening condition. While some verbal reports are useful in certain medical emergencies, clinical interpretations of a verbal report have room for error and may spread misinformation.

According to the American Medical Association, “federal regulations and accreditation agency standards do not require authentication of verbal orders within a specific time frame. These requirements are usually in state licensure regulations.”1 To ensure that all applicable laws and regulations are followed, it is crucial to be aware of state-specific regulations.

In settings such as the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), patients are often seen by multiple healthcare providers. Therefore, it is essential to have a written report that all doctors can refer to.

“In general, verbal reports are problematic because they can be misunderstood by the person receiving the report, transcribed incorrectly leading to the provision of misinformation, or sometimes, not documented in a patient’s chart at all,” said Christina Settler, MS, CGC, Associate Vice President of Medical Affairs at Baylor Genetics. “Despite these risks, there are healthcare providers who will act on a verbal report, especially when they are trying to save a baby’s life in the NICU.”

Verbal reports are not necessarily the ideal standard in the genetics industry but can be helpful in certain situations. However, regardless of how fast a verbal test result is provided, if this information is misheard or misinterpreted, it can negatively impact the patient’s well-being for future medical management.


More commonly used in the genetics industry, written reports promote consistency and accuracy with only a small margin of error. This type of report, which is a standard practice at Baylor Genetics, is a physical report prepared by laboratory directors and sent back to the healthcare provider for further discussion with their patient. Compared to verbal reports there is little to no room for misinterpretation.

“Let’s say you have a verbal result that is recorded in one doctor’s notes, but there is no original report. Their note is their interpretation of the phone call and the result, which then gets copied and interpreted by others involved in the patient’s care since that is the only reference to the results that there is at the time.” said Dr. Nichole Owen, Assistant Clinical Director of Cytogenetics at Baylor Genetics. “That process leaves room for misinterpretation and miscommunication as no one has a physical report to reference for questions, or independently review.”

Having an original written report guarantees transparency throughout a patient’s healthcare journey and helps physicians adequately assess and provide their patients with the necessary next steps for medical management.

“You want the physical report that can be uploaded into their file so that every doctor who is going to treat this patient can review it and be clear about the diagnosis” said Dr. Owen. “Doctors want to see the original information because they are going to make crucial medical management decisions based on it.”

Written reports are invaluable in providing comprehensive and accurate patient care. They play an essential role in serving as a written record of a patient’s diagnosis and provide a basis for communication between healthcare providers.


At Baylor Genetics, we understand that time is of the essence and receiving the wrong results or receiving them too late can have a detrimental effect on your patient.

Once a sample is received by our lab, you can expect your patient’s written test results within five days for our Rapid Whole Exome Sequencing (rWES) and Rapid Whole Genome Sequencing (rWGS) tests. We understand that processing test results can mean life or death for some patients. Therefore, we want to provide a brief insight into our workflow to promote transparency with our laboratory’s processes and procedures.

  1. Your patient’s sample is collected and sent to Baylor Genetics.
  2. Once the sample has arrived at our laboratory, our team preps the sample and begins testing.
  3. Once testing is complete, our clinical team reviews your patient’s data and creates the report.
  4. The report is sent back to you, the healthcare provider, to communicate the results with your patient.

Baylor Genetics provides comprehensive testing, fast results, and a clear path for future medical management. Access to written reports is critical for all patients, especially those in the NICU and PICU. By utilizing our rapid versions of WGS and WES, we can assess and identify genetic conditions impacting your patient’s health and well-being in just five days.

Baylor Genetics continues to stand by our providers and deliver rapid genetic test results. In addition, ordering providers have direct access to our team of experts, which includes our lab directors and genetic counselors, to address any questions providers may have about their patient’s test results. As we continue to collaborate and share insight into our processes and procedures, we aim to improve healthcare as a whole.


At Baylor Genetics, we prioritize written reports to provide the most clear and consistent data for our providers. A misinterpretation of a verbal result may negatively affect a patient’s healthcare journey. Having a written report can better promote consistency and accuracy to ensure your patient receives the medical management they need, whether that be screening, surgery, or another medical procedure.

For more information on our clinical interpretations and reporting please click here.

  1. American Medical Association. Are Verbal Reports Prohibited? (2023, February).
  2. Baek H, Cho M, Kim S, Hwang H, Song M, Yoo S. Analysis of length of hospital stay using electronic health records: A statistical and data mining approach. PLoS One. 2018 Apr 13;13(4):e0195901. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0195901. PMID: 29652932; PMCID: PMC5898738.
  3. Global Commission. Ending the diagnostic odyssey for children with a rare disease. 2019.
  4. Posada de la Paz M, Taruscio D, Groft SC. Rare diseases epidemiology. Update and overview. 2nd edition. Chapter 2. Springer 2017. Cham, Switzerland.

For more information on the products and/or services mentioned…

Previous Post
What is Whole Genome Sequencing?
Next Post
The Importance of Diversity in Genetic Research