Medical labs are more important today than ever before. Medical advancements often take place in research labs because that’s where experiments happen and clinical medical laboratories are even more important. Clinical medical laboratories are used routinely for a variety of medical testing, which is commonplace, although impractical to house inside the actual doctor’s office or clinic. Laboratory medicine is generally divided into three sections. It is then divided further into a variety of units. Lab medicine is usually thought in these sections:
Anatomic Pathology. Academically, each unit is studied alone in one course. Other courses pertaining to this section include anatomy, physiology, histology, pathology, and pathophysiology.
Clinical Microbiology. This is the largest section in laboratory medicine; it encompasses five different units– bacteriology, virology, parasitology, immunology, and mycology.
Clinical Biochemistry. Units under this busy section are instrumental analysis, enzymology, toxicology and endocrinology.
Hematology. This small, yet busy, section consists of two units, which are coagulation and blood bank.
Genetics is also a new and growing section, which might in the future become the most important.
Clinical medical laboratories are usually attached to hospitals and work exclusively with the hospital’s patients or are private operations that receive lab work from private doctors, insurance companies, lawyers, and other health clinics. The actual distribution of sections in a medical lab depends on the lab and type of experimentation and the major type of work the lab is involved in. For example, some medical facilities will have a lab exclusively for microbiology, while others might have a variety of labs all dealing with microbiology and different units within it.
Medical laboratories are a huge consumer of medical supplies and expendables. Laboratories receive samples in special containers. Much of the medical analysis that occurs in labs is automated. Samples are handled by automation, sometimes, to avoid human error or contamination. Laboratories are usually busiest from 2am to 10am, when blood work is being completed for doctor’s morning rounds at the hospital. After 3pm, when the most private doctor’s work day ends, many samples are delivered to clinical labs and they get busy, again. Clinical medical laboratories are an indispensable part of modern medical diagnosis and treatment. More advanced diagnostic technology has increased the need for minute measurements and analysis for proper diagnosis and treatment to be administered.
For example, in the simple case of a person observed by a medical professional with high blood pressure, or an irregular pulse, a variety of blood tests can be performed to give the professional and the patient an insight into what might be causing the elevated reading. Only a few years ago, such testing would have been incredibly expensive, but modern advances have proved beneficial and cost-effective. Furthermore, once a lab test is performed and reveals a problem, such high cholesterol, many further tests can be done in a non-lab setting.
Due to the successes of medical laboratories in making work flow more efficient and accurate, several technologies have been developed for testing which could previously only be done in labs to be done at home, or in the clinic, itself. Almost instant results for cholesterol, insulin, and illegal substance related blood tests are now available. Even take home cancer and HIV testing is now available on the consumer market. But these tests have not disrupted the importance of the medical laboratory, and in fact seem to have made the labs even more important, as sometimes unclear tests need to be brought directly to the lab, which created the at home or in-clinic testing.
In the future with the growth of genetic medicine, medical labs dealing with genetic testing will become more important, while the basic operations of labs in existence today will remain similar, the testing might be focused more on genetic code, than biochemistry and pathogens. Regardless, the clinical medical lab will continue to be an important part of medical diagnosis and treatment.
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