Patients will likely never see the inside of a hospital lab, but it’s a department that’s critical to the care they receive – 75 per cent of medical decisions that physicians and care teams make are based on lab results. And in some cases, those results are needed quickly to make life-saving decisions.
St. Joseph’s Health Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital made the move to join our labs in 2016, creating an integrated system that improves turnaround times for tests and allows clinical knowledge to be shared across both sites, improving quality of care for patients at both organizations.
“The faster we can get results to our physicians, the faster treatment can begin for our patients,” said Dawn-Marie King, integrated director of Laboratory Services. “That’s why it’s important that we’re able to process specimens as quickly as possible. Every minute counts to the people we serve.”
St. Joe’s and St. Michael’s process almost 8 million lab tests every year. The partnership allows for more on-site testing so that fewer samples have to be sent out to third-party labs, saving time and reducing costs.
“By working together, we’ve been able to expand our areas of expertise and offer even more tests at the two sites, and we’re constantly looking for more opportunities to expand our services,” said King.
The integrated lab system has more than 400 staff members who work 24-7. The lab is split into five divisions that are broken down into a number of specialties, including:
Biochemistry performs a wide variety of tests for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes in blood, urine and other body fluids. An integrated lab allows centres of excellence (i.e. the immunology lab at St. Joe’s and the specialty chemistry labs at St. Michael’s) to grow and excel for patient-centred care.
Transfusion medicine is responsible for providing blood and products for transfusion. If a patient requires a transfusion because of surgery, injury or disease, donated blood is added to his or her own blood.
Hematology analyzes blood cells for disorders such as leukemia, anemia and possible infection. They provide a complete picture of a patient’s blood, including a blood count. They also investigate bleeding disorders by analyzing how quickly blood clots, monitor patients taking anticoagulants and analyze other types of body fluids, such as joint fluids.
Microbiology analyzes specimens from the body (such as urine or blood) to look at bacteria, fungi and viruses that might be present, and tests the effectiveness of antibiotics against bacteria in the samples to allow doctors to effectively treat infections. The lab also provides support to the infection control program by screening for multi-resistant organisms and examining how infections spread throughout the hospital.
Pathology examines samples from the body for diagnosis of diseases such as cancer. The various tests performed on tissue (histology) and body fluids (cytology) in pathology enables the pathologist to make a diagnosis that will indicate to the clinician the proper course of patient treatment. Pathologists also perform autopsies to determine the cause of death.
Molecular biology applies DNA and RNA detection techniques to the diagnosis, prognosis and targeted therapy of various diseases, including colon, brain, breast and cervical cancer.