Newsroom

Our Stories

CELTIC to raise the profile of laboratory testing

Toronto, March 25, 2015

By Greg Winson

Dr. Alexander Romaschin loads samples into a mass spectrometer
Dr. Alexander Romaschin loads samples into a mass spectrometer. (Photo by Katie Cooper)

Does the patient really need that test? How can we get lab results back faster?

These are some of the questions the Centre for Evidence-based Laboratory Testing to Improve Care, or CELTIC, hopes to answer. St. Michael’s is the first hospital in Ontario to develop a centre like this.

“We want to become a national leader in terms of guiding the use of laboratory testing,” said Dr. Victor Tron, chief of Laboratory Medicine.

CELTIC’s priorities are:

  • to discover and study new tests that get results back to physicians faster
  • to determine if existing tests are necessary, and offer laboratory tests as alternatives to more costly procedures
  • to increase patient engagement and understanding of the work done in the diagnostic laboratories.

A study underway of bacterial resistance to antibiotics by Dr. Alexander Romaschin, head of clinical biochemistry, demonstrates the benefit of diagnostic testing to patient outcomes. Current tests can take 10 to 24 hours before they can determine if a bacterial sample is resistant to antibiotics.

“We’ve been working on methods to shorten this period to less than three hours,” said Dr. Romaschin.

Being able to more quickly identify the most appropriate antibiotic for care is essential to patient safety.

“If you have people who are severely infected their mortality rate is 7 per cent per hour,” said Dr. Romaschin. “The sooner you can get a patient onto the right antibiotic, the better chance we can minimize severe complications.”

Tests under development by CELTIC could play a big role in hospital efficiency. In one study, a protein marker present in patients with mild to moderate head injury could reduce or eliminate the need for the patient to undergo a CT scan.

“With the introduction of cost-effective tests, you can avoid more labor-intensive and costly diagnostic procedures,” said Dr. Romaschin.

  Did you know?
  • Dr. Victor Tron is the incoming president of the Canadian Association of Pathologists.
  • The laboratory at St. Michael’s does 4.4 million tests a year.
  • Fifty per cent of all clinical decisions, in terms of treatment decisions, rely on a test.

A new laboratory test can be studied and evaluated in about two years, a much shorter timeframe than drug tests, which can take up to 10 years to evaluate, bringing improvements to patient care faster.

CELTIC will also offer laboratory tests for other hospitals, thus having a potential impact on the entire health-care system in Ontario. Dr. Tron said he hoped the revenue generated would make CELTIC sustainable and allow the labs to purchase instruments for which the hospital might not have the money.

Dr. Tron said he hopes CELTIC will raise the public profile of laboratory medicine. Lab tests play a critical role in diagnoses, but their function isn’t as well known by the public because of their somewhat behind-the-scenes role.

“We want to have engagement with clinicians, with the public, and increase their understanding of what lab testing is all about,” said Dr. Tron. “At the end of the day, I think that increased understanding is going to lead to a healthier patient.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.