Here’s what you must know before you visit a diagnostic laboratory

Dr. Kriti Singh, Consultant Biochemist &Quality Manager, Columbia Asia Hospital Sarjapur Road

We live in a world full of options. From food to places and apps, from sports to hobbies, studies to career options, houses to restaurants, buying to renting, home remedies to homeopathy medicines, from Ayurvedic to allopathic medicines. Be it items, applications, eatables, clothes, places to visit, etc., everything offers a variety of options to choose from. However, we cannot afford to experiment with each of our choices or go by a hit and trial method especially when it comes to our health. One such significant, yet lightly side-lined choice is that of diagnostic laboratories.

It is not the easiest of decisions to choose a satisfactory and efficient diagnostic laboratory. It is natural to get a bit confused about what factors should be kept in mind before selecting a lab for testing the specimens of our blood / urine / body fluid / stool, etc. Some of you might wonder why it is necessary to think before going to a diagnostic laboratory, and should you really be that careful. The answer to that is yes! You have to be careful because decisions about your health and further treatment are made based on the results provided by these laboratories. A laboratory has to follow certain regulatory guidelines when setting up.

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Here are five essential parameters that can be considered before choosing the appropriate diagnostic laboratory:

1.Laboratory setup and workflow: A laboratory should be appropriately designed, clearly demarcating collection area and work stations. The collection areas must be designed to impart privacy during collection and the laboratory must also ensure that the specimens are safe, spill-free and not damaged during transport. A good way these days to know about collection practices of a laboratory is to check customer reviews online.

2. Availability of tests and advanced technologies: In the current era of highest technological innovation and dependency, it goes without saying that advanced testing instruments are a must in a laboratory. This also increases the chances of accurate and precise health reports. Also, all the basic tests must be available at the laboratory because the effectiveness of a diagnostic laboratory is indicated by the availability of wide-ranged tests. Not all laboratories are equipped to perform all the tests on their premises due to the cost and infrastructure-related limitations.

3. Laboratory employees: All the employees of the laboratory must be well informed, well aware and helpful towards the patients about their needs and queries. The experience, as well as the skills of the staff and the medical practitioner, are basic necessities. This experience is garnered if the lab has been established for a substantial period of time.

4. Accreditation and standard of reporting: The laboratory must also have appropriate certification and accreditation to its name. Accreditation by NABL (National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories) and NABH (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals) is standard practice for well-functioning laboratories. It also instills a sense of faith and confidence in the customers about the laboratory’s services.

5. Availability of informationAll the information that the patient needs to know should be made available in the laboratory. Be it through a brochure with test descriptions and their prices at the front desk as per the patient’s requirements. If there are discrepancies with reports, the laboratory must clearly communicate and work towards resolution.

A laboratory report is very crucial for the patient’s health. If the accuracy is compromised it can have repercussions in the form of treatment modifications based on inaccurate reports with effects ranging from minimal to severe impact on health

The digital world has given us many choices, it is our duty to make the most informed ones. When it comes to choosing the best laboratory for ourselves, rationality is emphasized. With this information, make the best choice for yourself and take care!

What makes a good diagnostic laboratory?

  • A good laboratory ensures that all the information required by the patients is made available to them.
  • All the basic tests should be present under one roof in a laboratory.
  • A good laboratory follows the standards set by accreditation bodies.
  • Reports from a good laboratory contain snippets of information that are helpful for the patients in trying to interpret or rather understand these reports. However, a physician should be consulted to interpret the reports and advise with further treatment.
  • The reports are released only after a thorough internal quality check by the laboratory.

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