Diagnostic Tests Study Guide for the Medical Assistant test

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General Information

Questions about diagnostic testing will cover not only the actual procedures, but also care and usage of specific equipment used for these tests. There is a special emphasis on EKG (ECG) testing. This is a list of the basic information that will be tested.

Safety Regulations

There are numerous regulations that you must know and comply with when administering diagnostic tests. Here are some you definitely need to study:

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was put into place in 1970 to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for employees. Safety Data Sheets or SDS (formerly referred to as Material Safety Data Sheets/MSDS) are required by OSHA for use in facilities. SDS include a list of chemicals, hazards, and protective measures for dealing with the hazards. This website is a great tool that provides information on OSHA and its policies.

Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA ‘88)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) regulations include federal standards applicable to all U.S. facilities or sites that test human specimens for health assessment or to diagnose, prevent, or treat disease.” The CDC describes the purpose of the CLIA: “The CLIA regulations establish quality standards for laboratory testing performed on specimens from humans, such as blood, body fluid, and tissue, for the purpose of diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of disease or assessment of health.” More information, including the amendment, can be found here.

Commission on Office Laboratory Accreditation (COLA)

The Commission on Office Laboratory Accreditation (COLA) is an organization designed to ensure that laboratory medicine is run in accordance with CLIA requirements. Its goal is to improve clinical laboratories and patient care. This website provides more information on the COLA.

Universal Blood and Body Fluid Precautions

The CDC defines Universal Precautions as “an approach to infection control to treat all human blood and certain human body fluids as if they were known to be infectious for HIV, HBV, and other bloodborne pathogens.” Examples of Universal Precautions are handwashing and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Other precautions and examples of PPE can be found here.

Maintenance of Policy and Procedures Manual

Policy and Procedures Manuals are essential for the running of any business. In the case of healthcare, policies and procedures are constantly changing as more research is completed. Manuals must be updated routinely, especially when new policies are put into place or revisions are made. Know where to access your facility’s policy and procedure manual.

Quality Control

Quality control is a system used to ensure that patient care is of the highest quality. The system ensures that all products, materials, and equipment are safe to use and in proper working condition. These are the major components of a quality control system.

Testing Protocols

Quality control measures are responsible for ensuring the safety of tests to be performed on patients. Procedures to be used are specifically outlined in testing protocols.

Test Records and Performance Logs

A log of quality control measures and a daily workload log must be included in all documentation. It is important that these logs are kept religiously and that entries are completely accurate.

Daily Equipment Maintenance and Calibration

Routine maintenance of equipment is a required quality control measure. Calibration of equipment must be performed and documented in the quality control log.

Monitoring Temperature Controls

Temperature control monitoring is important in the laboratory. Some chemicals and specimens must be kept at specific temperatures. Without temperature control, specimens may be lost and need to be recollected.

Storing Reagents

Reagents are stored in different conditions depending on individual manufacturer’s instructions. Frozen and cold storage are two storage methods that are used.

Avoidance of Pre-Analytical Errors

Errors in laboratory testing can lead to patient misdiagnosis, which can be life-threatening in some situations. Pre-analytical errors are the most common and the most preventable. Pre-analytical errors are errors made during the handling and processing phase and are largely due to human error instead of equipment failure. Closely following proper handling of specimens can help avoid error.

Laboratory Equipment

Laboratory equipment is essential to the processing of specimens. It can help achieve faster diagnosis for patients. If properly maintained, laboratory equipment can ensure faster, more accurate results of patient testing.

Identify Commonly Used Equipment

Blood collection systems, microscopes, analyzer equipment, centrifuges, incubators, and sterilizers are all commonly used in a medical laboratory. Know the use of each piece of equipment.

Identify Lab Equipment Components

Understanding the role of lab equipment components is essential to detecting problems in the equipment. If a specific component of a piece of equipment breaks, the part must be replaced or repaired before the equipment can be used. For example, if a lens on a microscope is cracked, it must be replaced.

Equipment Care and Maintenance

Proper care and maintenance of equipment is essential for the laboratory to function. Patient safety is a concern when equipment is not kept updated. A maintenance log should be kept for each set of equipment. Follow manufacturer’s instructions on how often to perform maintenance.


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