Clinical testing performed on samples taken on and from a human body (in-vitro diagnostics or IVD) is a critical part of modern medical care. Test results can be used to aid the patient, physician, and caregiver in reaching important solutions. Depending on the test and the methods used, testing can be performed at a centralized laboratory, the hospital bedside, the physician’s office, the clinic, the workplace, and even the home. Diagnostic tests are often the least expensive component of the health care pathway, yet they influence more than 70 percent of health care decisions.
Diagnostic tests provide objective information about a person’s health. This information can be used for many purposes. Some tests are used for risk assessment purposes—to determine the likelihood that a medical condition is, or will become, present. Other tests are used to monitor the course of a disease or to assess a patient’s response to treatments, or even to guide the
selection of further tests and treatments.
Most often, test results provide information that along with the patient’s history and other medical information helps the physician work with the patient so they can decide what might be the appropriate actions for additional testing or treatment.
On some occasions, the information from a single test is enough to convince physician specialists that a cascade of
sophisticated medical interventions are in order; and sometimes it is all that is needed to end them. More often, diagnostic tests provide information that, along with other tests and observations, helps shed light on whether or not a disease is present, has progressed, or has changed its course so that a judgment can be made on what treatment regimen might be most appropriate for a particular patient at a given time.
Diagnostics can help assess information that has an impact on the public health as well as individual patient health. Examples include tests that are used to identify emerging infections antibiotic resistance, exposure to toxic substances, and detection of chemical and biological threats.
Diagnostic tests are also increasingly used to assess the quality of patient care that is provided for medical conditions like diabetes, heart failure, and colon cancer.
There are more than 4,000 different diagnostic tests available today. Diagnostic tests are performed close to 7 billion times each year in the United States. They influence most of the dollars that are spent on health care delivery while accounting for only a small fraction of U.S. health care expenditures – less than 3%.