Healthcare professionals diagnose illness based on symptoms, patient history and a range of sophisticated tests run under specialist laboratory conditions. These tests can check samples of blood, urine and tissue for the tell-tale chemical and molecular signs that something is not right.
Role of lab tests
By testing for molecular and genetic markers, lab diagnostics can diagnose conditions ranging from pregnancy to HIV. They also help physicians to discount possible diseases by confirming that a patient does not have a particular condition.
Lab tests can screen individuals to check for early signs of disease. For example, breast and cervical cancer can be detected before physical symptoms develop. This facilitates earlier intervention and improves outcomes for patients.
Genetic tests identify people at higher risk of diseases, and predict the risk of blood clots and adverse reactions to general anaesthesia. Prenatal and new-born screening has the power to pick up a range of inherited disorders.
Tests for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease can identify people for whom treatment and lifestyle changes could significantly improve outcomes. Diagnostics also play a valuable role in monitoring chronic diseases.
Modern lab diagnostics are increasingly valuable in informing treatment choice. Companion diagnostics show, for example, whether a certain cancer medication is likely to be suitable for a particular patient.
Benefits of diagnostics
Informed medical decision-making is better for patients and the health system. Getting the right treatment for the right patient improves outcomes and reduces recovery times, ensuring that patients are back on their feet as quickly as possible.
Early diagnosis and care can prevent illness from developing and slow disease progression. Monitoring of people with ongoing disease, such as diabetes, can reduce the risk of serious complications.
This information-powered approach makes health systems more efficient by helping health professionals choose treatments that are more likely to be effective, and stop interventions which are not working for their patient.
Lab tests also rapidly detect infectious agents, including drug-resistant bacteria such as MRSA. This significantly improves hospitals’ capacity to contain outbreaks.
Innovation continues to drive advances in lab diagnostics. The revolution in molecular biology and genetics is unlocking a powerful range of tests that identify disease markers. Technology is also supporting faster tests results with greater automation and accuracy.
However, the value of lab tests is yet to be fully realised in many healthcare settings. As the range and sophistication of diagnostics improves, it is vital that providers are aware of the latest innovations at their disposal. A tool has no value when left in the toolbox.
The medtech sector has a role in addressing this information deficit among healthcare providers. We are also working to improve awareness among decision-makers of the value lab tests bring to the health system and to society. Developing the evidence required to demonstrate the value of high-tech testing is an industry priority.