What is the use of a clinical diagnostic laboratory?

What is the use of a clinical diagnostic laboratory?

Have you ever thought in the way how a medical team works to correctly diagnose a disease? How does the decision-making process to establish the kind of treatment to be administered to a patient works? And how do they manage to diagnose and treat diseases in less-developed areas of the world?

The clinical laboratory: what is its use?

The key of it all lies in the clinical diagnostic laboratory; a space with the instruments needed for taking a sample and testing it to attain a correct diagnosis.. Nowadays it is an essential tool for the medical area, because thanks to the laboratory equipment and skilled personnel we can diagnose the different diseases and carry out studies in order to establish the most appropriate treatment, as well as the monitoring that it needs.

At the beginning of the 20th century, these kind of techniques were not available, so health workers rarely trusted on laboratory procedures to diagnose diseases, and sometimes it was the pharmacist the one who prepared the doses, even if they were basic. In the mid-20th century, with the progress of medical procedures, the role of  the laboratory techniques as we know them today became clear.

Currently, the health personnel still interprets the results given by the laboratory team: physiological and pathological data that facilitate the management and monitoring of the disease and its appropriate treatment.

The clinical laboratory in less-developed areas

In developing or underdeveloped countries, a clinical diagnostic laboratory may be reduced to a small room in which poor-skilled personnel perform the most basic and urgent techniques, using basic reagents and products that will allow to perform the most complete test available. However, any small space that carries out the role of a laboratory may be essential for the management, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases and epidemics in less-developed areas, as for example the HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, dengue or yellow fever, among others. Also, the prevention and management of prevalent and chronic diseases due to laboratory techniques available in those poor settings will be an asset.

Organisations such as the Probitas Foundation have understood the vital importance of improving laboratory infrastructures in those areas. Some actions that are carried out through different programmes are the rehabilitation of spaces, the provision of  sustainable electrical power, the supplying of drinking water or the training of local staff on laboratory management, the handling and storage of biological samples, the quality control, the clinical interpretation of the results, and the management of the tests performed.

Probitas and some examples of the GLI programme: a support for the basic diagnostic laboratories of Ghana and Ecuador

Through its own programme Global Laboratory Initiative (GLI), the Probitas Foundation has five projects running with the aim of supporting basic diagnostic laboratories in the most disadvantaged regions of the world. It does so through the rehabilitation of spaces and reinforcement of basic infrastructures (electrical power and water supply), the provision of laboratory equipment, the training of local staff, and the strengthening of the problem-solving capacity and the laboratory management.

After a first pilot experience in Bamako, the Foundation is working in the improvement of the clinical laboratory of the Maternal and Child Health Hospital,located in the town of Kumasi, in the centre-south of Ghana. The aim is to improve the clinical diagnostic service, optimising, in this way, the management of the most prevalent pathologies and  high-risk pregnancies in this Maternal and Child Health Hospital, which is also the only specialised treatment centre on acute and severe child malnutrition in the region.

A third GLI project, the GLI-Ecuador, is being implemented, together with the ACNUR / UNHCR, at the Regional Hospital  Marco Vinicio Iza, Lago Agrio (Sucumbíos, Ecuador), and at the Health sub-centre of Puerto El Carmen, located in a difficult-to-reach area which also has a low socioeconomic development: a vulnerability situation that worsens due to the fact that it is a population that receives refugees that flee from the armed conflict in Colombia. The objective designed by the ACNUR / UNHCR and Probitas consists in covering the essential social and health needs of the local population and those of refugees by the improvement of social and health services, strengthen  the clinical diagnostic capacity for communicable and chronic diseases among the most prevalent in the region.