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July 24, 1972

Uses of the Clinical Laboratory

JAMA. 1972;221(4):400. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200170046012

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That there is a condition of addiction to the laboratory is well known. Swamping hospital laboratories with the necessity of doing poorly considered tests does nothing for the quality of the operation. The laboratory will not substitute for clinical acumen. What it substitutes for, on occasion, is inadequate history, when for any reason it is not known what has transpired to get the patient into the fix he is in. Even then, masterly inactivity is the better policy if it can be managed. Usually the relationship is inverse between the quantity of laboratory tests and the quality of the history.

One ought be a step ahead of his laboratory tests in looking toward the resolution of the problem at hand. Yet there are times when the uses of a particular test cannot be fully anticipated. Therefore, when a laboratory study is done, all the information that is in it ought