Getting the Blood Tests Right at the Phlebotomy Center

Last week I had some blood tests taken before a doctor’s appointment. I went to a commercial lab facility, one of several dozen centers for collecting specimens have opened up in otherwise-unrented Manhattan office spaces lately.

I have to say I really like getting my blood work done at this place, if and when I need blood tests. And it’s gotten better over the past few years.

First, pretty much all they do in the lab center is draw blood and collect other samples based on a doctor’s orders. So the people who work there are practiced at phlebotomy, because it’s what they do most of the time. The guy who drew my blood last week did the same a year or two ago, and he was good at it back then. He used a butterfly needle and I didn’t feel a thing.

Second, they seem organized and careful about matching specimens to patients. The man who drew my blood didn’t just confirm my name and date of birth, but he had me sign a form, upon my inspecting the labels that he immediately applied to the tubes of blood he drew from my right arm, that those were indeed my samples and that I was the patient named Elaine Schattner with that date of birth and other particulars.

Sounds like a paperwork hassle for the phlebotomist? You might say this is time-costly for his employer and for me, the patient. Maybe, but I’d rather have my blood samples drawn in a place ordered like that, where it’s less likely that my tube of serum will be accidentally switched with another person’s, generating error, confusion, possible unnecessary worry, further hassle and costs.

I have a strong preference for not cutting corners when it comes to my health care. I’m glad there are more regulations of clinical laboratories, enforced mainly through CLIA. In a busy physician’s office or other medical facility where doctors and nurses and technicians are strapped for time, and too-often plainly tired, the more essential are these quality checks.

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  • I am a cancer patient being treated by doctors at a hospital in Los Angeles. Currently I’m NED from ovarian cancer (lucky me!!) and see my oncologist every 3 months for exam and blood test (CA 125). He has already hinted that if I continue the NED status, he will be seeing me every 6 months. Well, the anxiety of that eventuality is already hitting me. So I found out that there are labs all around that will do blood tests without a doctor’s prescription, with the results going only to the patient. I have decided I will do these tests (out of pocket) at the 3 month interval of my potential bi-yearly doctor’s appointments. My test will cost $46, well worth the peace of mind. I hope this outside lab will match the quality of the one you are going to.

  • Emily, Thanks for writing in. The lab centers I know of in New York just take orders from licensed health care providers. It may be that the relevant laws, for ordering tests and direct reporting of results to patients, vary among states. Best wishes, ES

  • Cutting corners in health matters is not a very good option. You are doing it all right. You never know the disease you have now may lead you another dangerous one. You should feel free to take treatments and discuss your problems with the doctor frequently.

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