Abu Dhabi: Nearly 70 per cent of a physician’s diagnoses is based on laboratory results from blood tests, ultrasonograms and anatomic pathology analyses, a top health care professional has said in the capital.

“Yet, only about five to seven per cent of the health care bill is dedicated to covering laboratory costs, and most patients don’t even think about this part of the process when they visit a doctor for treatment. But the laboratory plays a big role in ensuring the well-being of patients,” Abdul Hamid Oubaisi, chief executive officer of the National Reference Laboratory, told Gulf News.

“In the development and evolution of health care in the UAE, we’ve seen a focus on developing hospitals and clinics. But now, there is a specific focus on segments of health care that also add value to the patient,” he added.

Medical laboratories can either be housed in health care facilities, or they can be stand-alone facilities to serve a number of providers. Oubaisi said the UAE is now looking at developing more stand-alone labs, much like the NRL, and that there are about 17 such facilities in the country at present.

The NRL itself was inaugurated in 2012, and is owned by Abu Dhabi Government-owned investment company Mubadala under its Mubadala Healthcare subsidiary. It is managed by Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp), one of the largest clinical laboratories and diagnostic facilities in the world, and Oubaisi said this partnership was undertaken in order to fast-track the development of NRL.

“Through LabCorp, we have access to more than 4,700 tests, and can perform about 1,000 of them in the UAE. Each year, we undertake about six million tests, even shipping about two per cent of them to the LabCorp facilities in the United States for analysis when required,” the professional said.

The facility also conducts a fair number of tests to confirm anatomic pathology diagnoses reached by other medical experts.

“About five to ten per cent of the tests we perform in our in-house anatomic pathology department are second opinions, and these are mostly for complex cases with a lot of liability,” said Dr Basel Altrabulsi, chief medical officer at the NRL.

In addition to its stand-alone facilities in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, which employ 200 staff between them, the NRL also manages the on-site laboratories at seven health care facilities, including at the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and at the Healthpoint Hospital.