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Understanding Your Tests

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Like many areas in medicine, clinical lab testing often provides few simple answers to commonly asked questions. The issues - on topics like insurance reimbursement and reference ranges - can be very complex. While we can't offer the kinds of short, easy answers that we seem to be accustomed to in this information age, we have attempted in the following articles to break down the issues in a way that will help you to understand them a bit better and perhaps to ask the appropriate questions of your healthcare provider.

Deciphering Your Lab Report
This article includes an interactive sample lab report that provides explanations of the elements found on a typical lab report.

Reference Ranges and What They Mean
Lab test results are often interpreted on their relation to a reference range. This article explains the difficulty in defining and using reference ranges.

Making Informed Decisions for Better Health
Everyone wants improved healthcare. This article offers explanations of three key terms and their contributions to improving healthcare and, more specifically, healthcare as practiced through laboratory medicine.

How Reliable is Laboratory Testing?
Lab test results play a crucial role in medical decision-making. This article explains the key concepts and practices involved in making laboratory tests reliable.

The Universe of Genetic Testing
This article examines the various ways that new research in genetic testing will impact your healthcare.

The World of Forensic Laboratory Testing
This article explains what forensic testing is, when it is necessary, and dispels some of the misconceptions you may have about this form of laboratory testing.

Anatomic Pathology
This article explains anatomic pathology, the branch of medicine that studies the effect of disease on the structure of body organs, both as a whole and microscopically, including histopathology and cytopathology — and how it is different than clinical pathology.

Collecting Samples for Testing
This article provides an overview of the wide variety of samples that can be taken from the human body to be used for laboratory testing.

Putting New Laboratory Tests into Practice
A series of articles that describe how different types of laboratory tests are developed, validated, and made available for use by patients and their healthcare providers.

Commercial Laboratory Tests and FDA Approval
Part II in the series "Putting New Laboratory Tests into Practice"; this section deals with the types of tests that are manufactured and sold in bulk to hospital and reference laboratories, clinics, doctors’ offices and other healthcare facilities.

Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety
A series of articles to help people, especially children and the elderly, cope with providing a sample for laboratory testing, including tips on blood testing

With Home Testing, Consumers Take Charge of Their Health
This article provides as overview of home testing and includes types of home tests currently available and links to other resources.

Wellness and Prevention in an Era of Patient Responsibility
As health care consumers have taken on more responsibility for their care, increased attention has been given to the value of preventive medicine. This article discusses how you can take an active role in your health care, offering general suggestions as well as more detail on the role of screening tests.

Test Preparation: Your Role
One of the most important factors in determining the accuracy and reliability of your laboratory test is you, the patient. This brief article explains your role in the process and ways in which you may need to prepare for your lab tests.

Laboratory Methods
Understanding the method used for a test provides a broader context for understanding your results. This article provides brief explanations of several common laboratory methods mentioned on this site.

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