Coming in differing scopes and intricacies, medical laboratories (or clinical laboratories) in Ghana are critical service points operating in various ways in the healthcare value chain, all in the quest to facilitate the provision of good healthcare in Ghana.

They differ from other laboratories that may be referred to as research laboratories that serve academic or production/manufacturing purposes. What are medical laboratories and how critical are the services they render to promote the general health of Ghanaians?

Basically, medical laboratories in Ghana be it a facility in a hospital or clinic or a commercial medical laboratory, work towards the same goal, i.e., they help the medical professional understand the health status of a patient to influence a medical decision based on scientific facts. This goes a long way in giving of proper, life-saving, health-improving care to the patient. Simply put, medical laboratories conduct tests on clinician specimens to obtain information about the health status of an individual (patient) to aid in diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases.


Medical laboratories in Ghana may be found in two categories: public medical laboratory facilities and private laboratories that may also operate as commercial entities. A medical laboratory could be made available in a public health facility to aid the medical team working in the hospital to undertake tests on specimen of persons who visit the facility (be it curative or preventive). Based on results from the test made, appropriate medical care and support is given to the patrons of the facility.

On the other hand, medical laboratories that are private or commercial are usually not affiliated to any hospital or clinic but would be open for the public to patronize their services. It could be that samples for specialize testing may not be performed at a regular hospital’s medical laboratory hence the outsourcing. It could be just for a second opinion due to trust issues. Indeed, some tests involve specimens sent between different or affiliate laboratories – public and private – for uncommon tests. The more peculiar the investigation the more specialized the type of medical laboratories that would be employed to arrive at some results.


Once the appropriate tests are run on the provided specimen at the medical laboratory – be it from the medical laboratory of a health facility or a commercial/private medical laboratory – results generated from the analysis done need to be verified by a competent professional (usually a Quality Manager) to validate its authenticity to be used by a doctor/medical staff. Medical laboratories in Ghana, knowing how sensitive their work is to a person’s health and life, hire competent professionals to ensure results generated and validated from their operations are accurate. Typically, after a laboratory test is conducted, the waiting period for the results to be produced, validated, or verified is termed the Turnaround Time -TAT. Results are then printed and sealed or electronically mailed to the requesting doctor. In some cases, doctors are given access to a portal with the needed credentials to download the report directly. This wraps the results in an air of secrecy, as though, the information in the results cannot be seen yet, even by the person who donated the specimen for studies. Perhaps, unless the doctor sees it first and hopefully divulge its contents to the patient.

Based on the information in the laboratory report, the doctor is sure of what she/he is dealing with and in turns takes the appropriate actions in treating and managing the patient.

Setting up a medical laboratory in Ghana and worldwide requires huge capital investment -from building or renting a facility to purchasing and Installation of medical equipment through to hiring qualified medical and non-medical professionals to work towards delivering uncompromised service. Quality is very critical in the medical laboratory operations to ensure the best diagnosis and treatment. Patronage of these facilities and paying the right charges is crucial to keeping it afloat to play the critical roles in our healthcare landscape.





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