Selecting the Right Laboratory
Do we need a Referral Form to access hormone balance testing? What about choosing the right laboratory?
How are they accredited & does it matter? – Read on as we answer these questions and provide some nifty tech-tips for selecting the right laboratory in Australia.
As with all industries, the numerous laboratories which make up the pathology industry vary in stature, experience and credibility. Ideally, we want the best, or at least one of the best labs, to be responsible for our own hormone analysis.
By using some of the advice in this post you should find it far easier to choose the right laboratory for your needs.
Steroid Hormone Testing using Saliva
First let’s take a quick look at the use of saliva for steroid hormone testing [aka; functional pathology]. Some of us over 40’s grew up believing serum (blood) was the gold standard in terms of human biological medical testing – and why would hormones be different, right?
Well it turns out the sex hormones, also sometimes referred to as steroid hormones, are very well suited to salivary testing, and the numbers are telling. Some of the bigger laboratories are running substantial numbers of tests on request annually.
Technology Taking us Forward
One of the reasons for increased demand for salivary steroid hormone testing is advancement in technology. Laboratories which are using multi-million dollar cutting edge technology are seeing far more accurate results, and in more detail than they were 15 years ago.
The more sophisticated labs operate in a transparent manner. They don’t just welcome, but request inspection by relevant testing authority accreditation bodies. Testing authority laboratory accreditation is a badge of honour for those laboratories and you’ll likely see it riding high on their website.
What’s changed in the Lab?
Using highly sophisticated equipment i.e. new age Tandem Mass Spectrometry, laboratory’s are producing consistent results in smaller measurement units.
Hormone test results are bench-marked against reference ranges established by each laboratory over time. Coded charts and graphs are usually used to display test results with both age and gender factored for easy comparison.
Try checking out laboratories online though! Confusingly, they all look impressive. Identifying which laboratory to use is daunting. In the past, most people have relied on a GP or other practitioner to make that decision without question. Further on we’ll talk Referral Form (skip to it if you like).
One Laboratory for Life is the Aim
Picking the right lab and sticking with them is advised. Here are some of the reasons why it is important to locate and stick with the right laboratory for you:
- Your complete pathology history is stored in one location making it easier to access in full
- The reference ranges and target ranges used in your results are consistent throughout your records making for easy retrospective comparison
- Measurement unit consistency
Australian Laboratories – State of Play
Approximately 500 million pathology tests are reported each year in Australia. Back in 2016, there were just over 1000 pathologists here too. Some of the bigger pathology companies have dozens of labs, committing to scientific research, open their books to peer review, and perform quality assurance as a matter of routine.
Accreditation is Credibility
Some of the many laboratories operating in Australia have a form of accreditation i.e. ISO accreditation / certification from established peak industry bodies such as NATA. Accreditation may be attributed to the laboratory or specific ‘test panels’ for which they have sought that accreditation. Accredited labs, and those undertaking accreditation are making a demonstrable effort to improve.
Unfortunately some commercial pathology lab operations have little motivation to participate in such programs and the cost borne by the labs themselves is a significant factor.
Many smaller [2-5 staff] operations can also be found with mixed reviews, but reviews are only one of the factors we consider when selecting a laboratory for hormone balance testing. Valid industry accreditation is by far more significant when it comes to choosing the right laboratory. So let’s look a little closer at it..
What is NATA? – NATA are responsible for the “Development and maintenance of standards and guidelines for pathology laboratories.” NATA’s experts will assess all aspects of a laboratory upon invitation and pass that information along to the Department of Human Services for consideration.
This is how the best laboratories are acknowledged and deservedly so.
Reputation needs Close Inspection
Laboratories haven’t all been perfect, always. Some have even made the news. Sometimes however, news can appear very dramatic at first, with closer inspection revealing a very different story to that indicated.
For this reason, we advise that you do not jump to a conclusion too quickly. But rather read the post, article or news bulletin in full. Reviewing the reputation of the laboratory is a good idea though. We know that because the testing authority itself has made it clear that this industry has both compliant, and non-compliant labs operating commercially within it.
No different to any other industry, but possibly more important, at least to us anyway.
What are some examples?
Whilst we cannot provide the identity of those under achieving, we can provide a short list of the more established. It’s for you to decide if they are credible, and we’ll show you how in a moment. First let’s take a look at some of the more prominent labs in Australia.
This is a short list in no particular order. It’s easy to find more laboratories with a simple online search.
- Sonic Health Care® incl’ Douglas Hanly Moir Pathology® + Melbourne Pathology® + Clinpath®
- Australian Clinical Labs® – beFunctional®
We came up with 5 Tips for Choosing the Right Laboratory.
Looking at the laboratory website is the first step, because we want to check some vital signs.
Start by searching for a lab and head to the first website, let’s get started.
Our Tips for Choosing the Right Laboratory
1. How long have they been in operation? (usually found in the About Us tab). Is the lab currently engaged in scientific research, if so, who with? If not, it’s a mark down i’m afraid.
2. Are they accredited by any respected regulatory body, or accreditation agency? This information will be located on the laboratory’ website. The link to the relevant agency or body should be usable, that is, when you click on the information, it should take you to the destination.
An inactive link would be considered a suspicious finding and another mark down. [Continued]
3. Next, scroll to the footer of the laboratory Home Page and check the Date /Year. If this isn’t current i.e. up to date, this can also be seen as a “mark down” in terms of credibility. Why? This is an indication that this website is poorly managed. Hopefully for that lab, they manage their equipment better, but you have to wonder! Moving on..
4. Now to Google and Bing. Do the Search Engines reveal anything irregular. This could be bad press, or unfavourable reviews. Simply type in the name of lab together with the term “ASIC” and you will know soon enough if this lab has had issues in the past.
Be careful not to judge at a glance though, as there are News stories, and then there are Fact Based stories. It’s important to know which is which when evaluating the laboratory’s integrity.
Referral Forms have always been a necessary requirement when accessing human biological testing here in Australia. The form is always signed by both the User and Referrer. The formal nature of the form prevents errors in administration, and the unique individual details on it are used to create a User Account/file.
We mentioned that Referral Forms are not always provided face to face. This may be of interest to people living in rural or remote areas or who are just simply to busy to attend appointments. TMH® is designed to cater for those very people, so let’s take a peak ..
OK so who is TMH® and are they a Laboratory?
No, TMH® is not itself a laboratory although it has partnered with a very reputable laboratory here in Australia. Our role is in providing a post-to-post, hassle free experience for our clients that makes for easier, faster, stress-less hormone balance testing.
Hormone balance testing, and dealing with laboratories in particular, is quite detailed.
Until now, the only practical way to get hormone balance testing performed was via a paid practitioner. But thankfully all that has changed in recent times, making hormone testing more accessible, more affordable and as a result, more practical.
That was, until now
We can now access the Lab Referral Forms practitioners previously charged to provide.
When using TMH® to purchase and manage the tests there are in fact only three steps involved and everything is provided.
- Purchase – From our easy to navigate test kit store
- Perform – Simple Saliva collection
- Post – Your samples back to the lab by paid express post
As opposed to multiple appointments, time and expense, TMH® is accessible, convenient and ideal for taking that first investigative step. No one can replace a GP however, and we suggest sharing any concerning hormone test results with your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.
That simple first step is yours to take, if in fact you’re curious about hormone balance.
TMH® Test Kits go Anywhere
All of the TMH® hormone test kits come with specific instructions, and the test results include brief individual reports.
Checking our hormone levels can lead to smarter decision making and improvements to quality of life. It’s never too late to test, it’s also never been this easy. So why not..
By heeding the advice within this blog you will be able to choose a quality laboratory for testing hormone balance in Australia.
We hope you wind up at testMyhormones.com.au where, after purchasing a hormone test kit, you’ll be warmly greeted and swiftly told to “leave it all to us.”
Brought to you by testMYhormones®