Evidence-Based Medicine: Its Application to Laboratory Medicine
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The current health care environment of cost-cutting highlights the need to reinforce the contribution of laboratory medicine to improvement in health care. This must be a patient-focused activity using continuous quality improvement, a familiar concept in laboratory practice. Involvement in the creation of clinical practice guidelines, care maps, and outcome measures will place laboratory medicine in the circle of continuous quality improvement. The laboratory must provide strong evidence that tests contribute to better overall resource utilization. Laboratory Information Systems can be used to better integrate laboratory data with clinical, diagnostic, pharmaceutic, statistical, and financial information. Improving laboratory utilization requires clear demonstrations of appropriate versus inappropriate laboratory use, and instructions on implementing appropriate use. The education of laboratory professionals should include search strategies, understanding the diagnostic accuracy of medical tests, and the application of systematic reviews and meta-analysis. With the rapid increase in the data base supporting evidence-based laboratory medicine, there is a significant challenge in translating the existing knowledge into practice. There is also a need for a cooperative strategy between the diagnostics industry and the laboratory medicine profession to provide evidence of the added value of laboratory testing. There is a significant role in developing the academic basis of the unique aspects of evidence-based laboratory medicine.
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