Clinical laboratorians provide information and services that contribute to maximizing the effective delivery of care in today's complex healthcare system by assuring that the correct test is performed on the right person, at the right time, producing accurate test results that enable providers to make the right diagnostic and therapeutic decisions using the right level of health care resources.
Laboratory information enables physicians and other healthcare professionals to make appropriate evidence-based diagnostic or therapeutic decisions for their patients. Clinical laboratory services are the most cost effective, least invasive source of the objective information used in clinical decision-making. Clinical laboratory services have a direct impact on many aspects of patient care including, but not limited to, length of stay, patient safety, resource utilization, and customer satisfaction.
While technology continues to improve the productivity of today's laboratories, new technologies, new diseases, and disease strains continue to drive the need for more tests and testing. Changes in the world, such as bio-terrorism and the speed with which diseases spread globally drive the need for rapid diagnosis.
Thus, the clinical laboratory professional is an indispensable partner in providing patient care, and making direct improvements in the lives of patients, in the maintenance of the public's health, and in the effectiveness of individual health care providers
Impacting diagnosis, identifying abnormalities: Laboratory professionals produce accurate, sensitive and specific information using new age technologies to guide clinical decision making. It is the role of laboratory professionals to inform physicians about which tests have the highest effectiveness in given clinical conditions. Through this partnership, the overall cost of testing and patient care is controlled and the quality of care is improved.
Laboratory information has a profound impact on patient diagnosis. Tests, whether classified as screening or diagnostic, are essential elements of protocols used to diagnose and manage specific diseases and conditions. Algorithmic testing models, designed with clinicians, are used to guide the diagnostic process to obtain the right information at the right time for a given patient, shorten the time to diagnose, the length of stay and improve utilization of laboratory services.4 These models assist in rapid identification of disease, assessment of severity of disease, creation of a therapeutic plan, and management/monitoring of treatment outcomes. The more efficient the testing protocol, the shorter the length of inpatient stay or outpatient encounter, the faster the implementation of therapy, and the lower the overall cost of care.
Change in patient management: The ability of a physician or other patient care provider to consistently make timely and evidence-based decisions which result in a change in care management is directly related to the availability of accurate, reliable and timely laboratory testing and reporting of results. A few examples that illustrate the laboratory professional's ability to be the primary enabler of therapeutic efficacy are:
- Monitor the effectiveness of parenteral nutritional treatment
- Ensure proper dosing of medication
- Monitor harmful effects of therapeutic drugs
- Identify the causes of infection
- Determine effective antibiotic therapy
- Monitor the effectiveness of cancer therapy
- Provide real-time decision support
Clinical laboratory services provide the information required by a physician to start, adjust and also to stop a course of treatment. This allows for the most appropriate, cost effective use of expensive drugs and other therapies, and allows the patient to be treated at the most appropriate level of care for the most appropriate period of time. Without laboratory information, these decisions would be compromised at best.
Patient Safety and Impacting Patient Outcome:
Clinical laboratory services are a vital component of ensuring optimal outcomes for all patients accessing health care, whether for simple situations or for complicated, potentially life threatening situations; including end-of-life care. Laboratory professionals impact patient safety by providing pre-surgical or pre-procedural testing that determines the current ability of the patient to undergo those treatments. Patient outcomes are influenced by providing the needed information for clinicians to monitor the effectiveness of ongoing treatments and therapies. Patient outcomes can also be measured by how well chronic illnesses are managed. Diabetics rely on laboratory support to monitor the long-term effectiveness of their home monitoring systems. Laboratory professionals provide vital information to assist clinicians in making decisions that affect quality of life for their patients.