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Chapter 5 : Laboratory Design
Planning and executing the design of a clinical laboratory is a unique and challenging task. This process not only involves coordinating how clinical samples will be received and tested, but also how efficiency can be maximized, safety ensured, and flexibility maintained. The design of a modern-day clinical virology laboratory can be especially challenging, given the continued application of traditional viral cell culture in some laboratories and the increasing use of molecular techniques (e.g., real-time PCR) for the diagnosis of viral infections. If there is one truth regarding laboratory design, it is that there is no “one size fits all” approach. Before a laboratory can begin to discuss the ideal approach for virologic testing at its institution, a number of important issues must be considered. These issues include the space that is (or will be) available, the number of laboratory staff that will occupy the space, the testing that will be performed, and the patient population from whom samples will be collected and submitted for testing. Furthermore, important decisions need to be made by laboratory and institutional leadership regarding whether testing should be performed in a centralized (i.e., consolidated) laboratory, a decentralized (i.e., specialized) laboratory, or a combination of the two. Another important consideration, driven by the increasing development of rapid, sample-to-answer molecular devices, centers around whether testing should be performed “near the patient” or at the “point of care.” Addressing each of these important issues is outside the scope of this chapter. However, key components of laboratory design, especially as they pertain to clinical virology, will be discussed to provide laboratory professionals with a foundation and guide to help ensure that test results are accurate, laboratory staff are safe, and future growth can be accommodated.