Services Provided By Laboratories

Readers may understand laboratories as only providing test results after the analysis of samples that are submitted.

This view of laboratories only focuses on one of their products and overlooks services provided by the professionals who work in the laboratories. Laboratory professionals provide consultation on the selection of the most useful tests for screening, diagnosis, and verification of disease. They provide information on the proper handling and transportation of samples. Development of new technologies, evaluation of technologies, and the application of technologies are other important services provided by laboratory professionals. Laboratories evaluate test kits for ease of use, storage conditions, and performance characteristics. Laboratories train individuals to perform testing and educate and inform users of laboratory services.

Laboratories may also operate laboratory-based surveillance systems for respiratory and enteric diseases. For example, several states—such as Wisconsin (www.slh.wisc.edu/labupdates. description.php), Minnesota (www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepa/ diseases/flu/avain/surveillance.html), and Nebraska (www.hhs. state.ne.us/new/o2o5nr/flu1.htm)—and the United Kingdom Health Protection Agency (www.phls.co.uk/infections) have developed laboratory-based surveillance systems that collect data on respiratory infections and make the findings available on a their Web sites daily or weekly.

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