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Integrating care: Collaboration between the laboratory and the medical team in caring for the patient

27 May 2024

In an era of rapid advances in medical technology and increasing specialisation in health, integration of care is becoming a key element in the provision of quality healthcare services. Collaboration between laboratories and medical teams plays a fundamental role in this process, enabling accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of patients.

History and development of medical collaboration

The evolution of medicine and the development of diagnostic technologies have significantly affected the way doctors and laboratories work together. In the past, doctors relied mainly on their clinical skills and experience to make a diagnosis. As science progressed, laboratories began to play an increasingly important role in providing doctors with the necessary diagnostic data.

From simple blood tests to advanced genetic testing, laboratories have become an indispensable part of the diagnostic process. Their role is no longer limited to performing tests, but also includes interpreting results and making recommendations for further management. The collaboration between doctors and laboratories is now more complex and multifaceted than ever before.

In the laboratory

A medical laboratory is a place where a variety of diagnostic tests are carried out to support doctors in the process of diagnosing and treating patients. Medical laboratories can specialise in different areas such as biochemistry, microbiology, haematology, pathology or genetics.

Who works in the laboratory?

The medical laboratories are staffed by a team of highly qualified specialists, including:

  • Laboratory diagnostician: Responsible for carrying out tests and analyses, he or she often specialises in one of the laboratory areas.
  • Laboratory technician: Supports laboratory diagnosticians in the testing and maintenance of laboratory equipment.
  • Pathomorphologist: He specialises in examining tissues and cells under the microscope, diagnosing diseases based on tissue changes.
  • Biotechnology: He works on developing new diagnostic tests and methods, often involved in scientific research.
  • Laboratory manager: He manages the work of the laboratory, coordinates assignments and ensures that all procedures comply with current standards.

What does the work in the laboratory involve?

Working in a medical laboratory involves several key stages:

  1. Sampling and acceptance: The process begins with the collection of biological samples from patients, such as blood, urine, tissue or body fluids. These samples are then recorded and labelled appropriately to prevent identification errors.
  2. Sample preparation: Samples are prepared for analysis according to specific procedures, which may include centrifugation, dilution, staining or other material preparation methods.
  3. Sample analysis: Samples are analysed using a variety of laboratory techniques. This may include chemical tests, microscopic examinations, genetic analyses, microbiological cultures and many others.
  4. Interpretation of results: The laboratory diagnostician interprets the test results and prepares reports, which are provided to the doctors. The results may include detailed information on the patient's health status, the presence of pathogens, levels of various chemicals in the body, etc.
  5. Communication of results: Test results are communicated to the medical team via information systems such as the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). This allows doctors to access the data they need quickly and easily.
  6. Consultation: In some cases, the laboratory diagnostician may be involved in consultation with the physician to help interpret the results and advise on further diagnostic or therapeutic management.

Cooperation in practice

One example of effective collaboration between the laboratory and the medical team is in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases. The rapid and accurate identification of the pathogen is crucial for the successful treatment of the patient. Here, the laboratory plays a key role in providing doctors with the necessary information on the type of infection and its susceptibility to different antibiotics.

An example is the case of a patient with severe pneumonia. Thanks to the collaboration between the laboratory and the medical team, the pathogen responsible for the infection was quickly identified as a bacterium resistant to many standard antibiotics. As a result, the doctors were able to quickly adjust the therapy, which significantly improved the patient's condition.

Another example is cancer treatment. Modern diagnostic methods, such as DNA sequencing, make it possible to precisely determine the type of cancer and its susceptibility to different therapies. In this case, the laboratory provides key information that allows individualisation of therapy, which significantly increases the chances of treatment success.

Benefits for patients

Integrating healthcare brings numerous benefits to patients. One of the most important is more precise diagnosis. Thanks to the close collaboration between the laboratory and the medical team, a quick and accurate diagnosis can be made, allowing the appropriate treatment to be implemented in a shorter period of time.

Individualisation of therapy is another benefit of integrating care. Thanks to advanced laboratory tests, it is possible to tailor therapy to the individual patient's needs. An example is personalised cancer therapy, where the most effective drugs are selected for a particular patient based on the results of genetic testing.

Improved treatment outcomes are also a significant benefit. Studies show that patients who are treated in an integrated healthcare system have better therapeutic outcomes. Faster diagnosis, better coordination of care and individualised treatment translate into higher therapeutic success rates.

The future of care integration

The future of healthcare integration is bright, especially thanks to advances in technology. New technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics can further integrate healthcare. AI can assist doctors in interpreting test results, predicting treatment outcomes and making therapeutic decisions.

Education and training of medical and laboratory staff will also be key. As technology continues to evolve, it will be necessary to continually improve the skills of staff to keep up with new diagnostic and therapeutic methods.

Directions for the development of healthcare integration may include further automation of processes, the development of telemedicine and more advanced information management systems. All of these aim to improve the quality of healthcare and make it more accessible to patients.