A look at clinical labs in Mexico
By Milton Jorge Reyes Original Print Publication: October, 2008
Do you know your blood type?
If you don´t already know, you should find out. In case of an emergency, you should also know the blood types of your family and friends. There can be blood shortages in Mexico, and it’s best to know who you can call in time of need. To find out your blood type, you can go directly to any lab and ask them to do a quick inexpensive test. It is not necessary to go through your doctor for this information.
Good treatment starts with good diagnostics: A wide array of clinical lab options are found in Mexico, and they vary in both price and quality. The reliability of clinical tests depends on two elements: the type of machine used to analyze your blood, and the quality and consistency of the control process used to collect, prepare, analyze, and report the clinical results to doctors and patients. In simple terms, the more reliable the test result, the better the doctor will be able to accurately diagnose the problem and recommend treatment.
The first type of clinical lab your doctor might recommend is an “Integrator Lab”, one with many branches and central processing labs. In general terms, these labs have solid infrastructure with high-end equipment and welltrained staff. They usually provide both clinical (bloodwork) and imaging diagnostics, as well as specialized tests like audiometrics and colonoscopy. These labs assure quality through automated and mechanical analyzers. Quality is maintained by adhering to international and national quality control standards, and through staff training programs. Their prices are competitive and test quality is assured.
Lab name + certification/management systems
Chopo, www.chopo.com.mx, ISO 15189-2003 + CAP Médico
Polanco, www.impolanco.com, PACAL + AMBC + UnityBiorad + ISO 9001-2000 in process.
Jenner, www.laboratoriojenner.com.mx, PACAL + EMA
The second type of clinical labs out there are what I call “Reputable Labs.” Basically, they are medium–size “boutique” labs that perform a lower volume of tests. They usually have six to fifteen branches within a specific region or metropolitan area, and offer years of experience and an excellent reputation. Their prices are usually higher than those at “Integrator Labs,” but they feel more private and are known for their reliability.
I include in this category labs in the high-end private hospitals, which are held to national and international quality standards. They are both safe and reliable.
Lab name + certification/management systems
Laboratorios Biomédicos, www.laboratoriosbiomedicos.com, PACAL + AMBC + ISO 9000
Laboratorios TJ Oriard, www.tjoriard.com, PACAL + ISO 9001-2000
Biomédica de Referencia, www.biomedicadereferencia.com, PACAL + AMBC + ISO 9001-2000
Quest Diagnostics, www.questdiagnostics.com.mx, ISO 9001 + Six Sigma
Hospitals with Labs
Hospital ABC, www.laboratorioabc.com, ISO 9001-2000 + CAP
Hospital Angeles (group), www.laboratoriosbiomedicos.com, PACAL + AMBC + ISO 9000
Médica Sur, www.medicasur.com.mx, ISO 9001-2000 + CAP
I call the third type of clinical lab a “Corner Lab” (Laboratorios de la Esquina). Usually, these labs offer a limited menu of diagnostic tests. They normally have one branch and use semi-automated or manual technology with low quality chemicals that increase the probability of unreliable test results. These types of labs generally compete on price, offering services for well below the market average. If you are looking for a bargain, this may be an option for you, but it can be risky.
It is highly recommended you do your research prior to making a choice. Here are a few tips to help you find the right clinical lab for you in México.
1. It is important to verify that clinical labs have business management systems, like ISO 9001 or Six Sigma, in place. These management systems will assure quality control throughout the entire clinical diagnostic process. Also, verify that clinical labs have been recently certified by institutions like the AMBC, PACAL , and CAP, whose annual or bi-annual certifications assure the quality of the clinical processes.
Institution name + web site
PACAL-Programa de Aseguramiento de Calidad, www.pacal.org
COFEPRIS-Comisión Nacional para la Protección Contra los Riesgos Sanitarios, www.cofepris.gob.mx
AMBC-Asociación Mexicana de Bioquímica Clínica, www.ambc.com.mx
CAP-College of American Pathologists, www.cap.org
2. Ask how your blood sample will be analyzed: will the lab use manual, semi-automated, or automated analyzers? If they will manually analyze your test, make sure they have properly trained staff with years of experience.
3. Verify that they have an information system for consolidating and reporting data. Remember, you have the right to see the results, not just your doctor: you can request that the lab send you and your doctor the results by e-mail.