How are diagnostics making a difference to healthcare?

12 Mar 2015

Written by Doris-Ann Williams MBE

In vitro diagnostics (IVDs) are the tests used to determine information about your body using body fluids and tissues, most commonly blood. Most testing is done in a pathology laboratory in a hospital but some critical tests can also be done on wards, in A&E and in specific areas like operating theatres. Increasingly tests can be performed by GPs too. In fact even tests like pregnancy kits are IVDs.

IVDs provide key pieces of information to help determine what is wrong with people, or to rule out a possible cause, as many symptoms are the same for several causes of ill health. They are also used to monitor treatment and have become very important in selecting patients who will benefit from specific drugs, particularly in cancer.

IVDs are also used to screen blood donations to ensure the blood is safe to use and screened for disease. Screening programmes like the bowel cancer programme and cervical screening programme use IVDs, as do the health checks done on all newborn babies using a heelprick of blood.

For antimicrobial resistance, the significant role that IVDs can play is to rapidly, precisely and accurately identify the cause of illness or infection so only people (or animals) who really need antibiotics receive them and the choice of antibiotic can be correct. There are different tests to support decision making in minor ailments as well as seriously ill patients in hospital. Other IVDs can screen at risk population groups for infections like multi-drug resistant TB.

IVDs will also be vital tools to help the pharmaceutical industry develop new drugs including antibiotics and any other new anti-infectives.

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