Title 45, section 164.524 of the Code of Federal Regulations states that health care systems must provide patient health records upon that patient’s request. For complex testing, such as next-generation sequencing (NGS), this raises questions related to what data should be released and the laboratory considerations regarding the release of this data.


To describe the laboratory implications of releasing different NGS data files and the limitations for the clinical use of different NGS data files.


The College of American Pathologists workgroup, composed of laboratorians with expertise regarding NGS testing, reviewed pertinent literature, including title 45, section 164.524, and the Health and Human Services “Guidance on Individuals’ Right to Access Health Information.”


From an accreditation standpoint, validation of NGS includes both the wet bench and data processing (bioinformatics) portions, and appropriately validated laboratory testing is required to ensure quality patient results. NGS testing generates intermediate data files that have not completed the fully validated process but are often kept by the laboratory. These files may be requested by patients, but most patients will not be aware of the test validation process and the limitations of data that have not gone through a fully validated process.


Laboratories should encourage patients to receive their health data and to help individuals understand the content, uses, and limitations of laboratory data they have requested or received. NGS data used in a nonvalidated manner should not be used for clinical purposes without confirmation by a clinically validated method.

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Author notes

All authors are current or past members/staff of the College of American Pathologists Council on Scientific Affairs Molecular Committees, except Halley, Hermina, and Vasalos, who are College of American Pathologists employees. The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.