You’ve just visited your health care provider and the next step is to “get some tests.”
Tests are selected from a very large menu in diagnostic areas such as laboratory, imaging, cardiology and pulmonary function. The determination of which tests are necessary is made based on the reason for the visit, varying from a general health check to having very specific symptoms.
When the provider sends a request for the testing, part of the request will include the reason. It’s extremely important that the correct test is ordered so you are billed the correct amount. While correct billing is important, more important is ensuring that any specimens taken from you are always properly identified for safety.
Laboratory testing is rarely performed by the person obtaining the specimen. Because of this, proper specimen is critical to providing an accurate result.
Specimens such as urine, cultures and PAP tests are frequently collected in the provider office. Always ask to see that the container your specimen is placed in has your correct name and date of birth.
To ensure that these are always accurate, never let an unlabeled specimen be removed from the examination room. Always insist that the specimen be labeled in your presence. Proper procedure requires that the label be affixed to the container – not just the lid. This is to ensure that once the specimen is opened, proper identification can be maintained throughout the testing process.
Sometimes a biopsy is performed to obtain a specimen to identify a possible infection or cancer. Just before the procedure, a nurse or technician will review it with you and verify any documents. This is your opportunity to verify that your name and date of birth are accurate on all documents, including any labels that have been printed.
Obtaining these specimens may require an imaging procedure to accurately locate the best area from which to obtain the specimen. A nurse or technician often will be responsible for properly identifying the specimen. Ask to see the label attached to the container your specimen is placed in before it is removed from the room.
For collection of blood specimens, you may be directed to a laboratory facility. Prior to collecting a blood sample, the person doing the drawing must ensure that you are correctly identified. Don’t allow health care providers to ask you questions with yes or no answers. There are many names that sound alike or are spelled similarly. Always provide your full name with correct spelling and date of birth.
Electronic devices are being introduced in the health care setting that can assist with positive patient identification. These devices are used for blood specimen collection, medication administration, glucose meter testing and blood product administration. These devices allow the person collecting the specimen to scan their own ID badge, scan the patient armband and confirm positive patient identification for the procedure to be performed.
Ensure that tests ordered by your provider are accurate, timely and of the highest quality by actively participating in the identification process.
Naomi Matten is director of diagnostic services at Community Medical Center.