Today, laboratory testing is performed in many different settings – from the large reference lab that performs complex kinds of tests to your own home, where you might do a pregnancy test or monitor your blood glucose levels.
Many of us, however, may wonder where our tests actually are performed. As we learn to take a more active role in our medical care, a clear understanding of what happens when our blood or urine or other body fluid specimen is sent "off to the lab" will help us to become more knowledgeable participants in our own health care.
All labs are not the same for the simple reason that not all tests are the same. Just as tests vary in complexity, so too do labs vary in complexity, the volume of tests performed, the technology utilized, and the number and type of professionals who conduct the testing.
There are important differences among the various testing settings. This information should be useful in understanding the variety of laboratory testing available.