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Medical laboratories

Medical laboratories vary in size and complexity and so offer a variety of testing services. More comprehensive services can be found in acute-care hospitals and medical centers, where 70% of clinical decisions are based on laboratory testing. Doctors offices and clinics, as well as skilled nursing and long-term care facilities, may have laboratories that provide more basic testing services. Commercial medical laboratories operate as independent businesses and provide testing that is otherwise not provided in other settings due to low test volume or complexity.

Medical laboratory science professionals (also called clinical laboratory scientists or clinical laboratory technicians) are highly skilled scientists who discover the presence or absence of disease and provide data that help physicians determine the best treatment for the patient.

Medical laboratory science professionals play an important role in the process of providing personalized care, despite the fact that they are not often personally involved with patients. They generate crucially important data for identifying and treating health conditions that include cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Some of the works performed by medical laboratory science professionals include:

  • Examine and analyze body fluids, tissues and cells
  • Identify infective microorganisms
  • Analyze the chemical constituents of body fluids
  • Identify blood-clotting abnormalities
  • Cross-match donor blood for transfusions

Hospital laboratories are attached to a hospital, and perform tests on their patients. Private (or community) laboratories receive samples from general practitioners, insurance companies, clinical research sites and other health clinics for analysis. For extremely specialised tests, samples may go to a research laboratory. Some tests involve specimens sent between different labs for uncommon tests. For example, in some cases it may be more cost effective if a particular laboratory specializes in less common tests, receiving specimens (and payment) from other labs, while sending other specimens to other labs for those tests they do not perform.