Understanding Medical Problems

3 Advances In Clinical Laboratory Services

Clinical laboratory services are vital for the diagnosis and treatment of various conditions. As technology has progressed, there have been major advances in the services provided, thereby improving medical care.

Direct Access

Some medical facilities offer direct access to the public so they can have some blood tests without a doctor's order. These tests typically include some cancer screenings, complete blood count, metabolic panels, pregnancy tests, and thyroid screenings. The advantage of direct access to laboratory services is it may be cost-effective for people who are uninsured or under-insured. People without insurance often do not have the funds necessary to pay out-of-pocket for a doctor's visit and also pay for the tests requested by the doctor. Patients can simply go to the lab and pay for specific tests. Sometimes direct access helps patients feel more comfortable addressing certain issues. For example, someone may want to be screened for HIV, but are uncomfortable asking for the test. Direct access limits the number of people the person has to encounter about the topic.

Genetic Screenings

Different types of genetic screenings are becoming more common as an option in laboratories, making them more accessible to people. One type of genetic screening is testing for genetic predispositions to certain types of cancers. For example, a woman may want to know if she tests positive for the BRCA mutation, which is associated with higher risk of breast cancer and other reproductive cancers. Although the BRCA mutation is often associated with women, men can also have the mutation. This can increase the risk of male breast cancer or aggressive forms of prostate cancer. Both men and women with the BRCA mutation may face a higher risk of pancreatic cancer and melanoma. Other types of genetic screenings can be done to determine if people are carriers for certain genetic disorders, which can aid in family planning. Some common genetic screenings include sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy.

On-Site Testing

Some medical offices have on-site laboratory and histology services. Previously, this may have only been seen in the hospital or outpatient setting. Medical offices would collect blood work, urine, or tissue samples and keep them cold or in preserving fluid and send them out to labs at the end of the day. Now, many medical offices do their own testing of blood and urine, allowing the results to be known faster. On-site testing can be especially useful for diagnosing or monitoring various conditions. For histological testing, some dermatologists are able to excise tissue and immediately look at it under the microscope to determine if the borders are clear during a simple excision. This allows the dermatologist to make sure their margins are clear before closing the incision and reduce the chance of future procedures.

Due to the accessibility and scope of laboratory services, there has been an substantial improvement in medical care. Patients can be tested for various conditions, sometimes at their convenience, and receive results quickly. For more information about clinical laboratory services, contact a clinical laboratory near you.