Most Common Types of Clinical Testing Labs
Clinical testing labs play an extremely important role in the healthcare industry. In these labs, tests are carried out on clinical specimens to obtain essential information about patient health. These test results are used to make accurate diagnoses, monitor treatment progress, and learn more about various diseases and conditions.
All clinical laboratories operate with the goal of providing high-quality, efficient lab testing. However, the similarities can often end there. Clinical labs may vary greatly in the size and scope of testing services offered. Below, we review the most common types of clinical testing labs and a brief overview of how they operate.
National / Regional Labs
National and regional laboratories operate in a coordinated manner to offer clinical testing through a large-scale network of patient service centers. These laboratory chains tend to provide a wide range of tests and services, from screening tests to STD tests, urinalysis, throat swabs, and more. Tests range from routine to highly specialized. National and regional labs typically enforce consistent policies, training, and other programs across their multiple locations. These labs also tend to be very high-volume, performing anywhere from 100,000 to 1,000,000 lab tests annually.
Hospital Lab Testing Types
Many hospitals and other healthcare organizations are affiliated with nearby (or sometimes onsite) clinical laboratories. These labs perform tests on clinical specimens collected from patients of the affiliated healthcare organization to accurately diagnose or monitor the treatment of various diseases and conditions. Hospital laboratories commonly receive funding through grants. They also tend to offer a wider range of specialized testing types compared to labs affiliated with other healthcare organizations such as long-term care facilities and clinics, which may only offer routine tests.
Privately Owned Laboratories
Clinical testing labs can also be privately or independently owned. These labs may be associated with privately owned healthcare institutions (rather than those funded by the government), or they may function independently from other organizations altogether. Test samples typically come from primary care physicians, clinical research sites, and insurance companies. Privately and independently owned labs may offer a more narrow scope of testing services. However, they may also specialize in certain uncommon tests that national or hospital labs do not offer.
Clinical Labs by Function / Test Specialization
Many clinical testing labs function as general laboratories, which provide common tests as well as a number of specialized test types. However, some labs operate primarily as specialty laboratories that perform medical tests in a particular field of interest. These clinical labs might receive samples from other labs in order to perform this specialized testing on their behalf. Areas of specialization might include toxicology, reproductive biology, hematology, cytogenetics, and more.
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