For Patients

What is a medical laboratory or lab?

A laboratory (lab) is any facility that does laboratory testing on specimens derived from humans to give information for the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of disease, or to assess a person’s health. The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA ’88) are federal guidelines for the regulation of laboratory testing to ensure the accuracy, reliability, and timeliness of patient test results regardless of where the test was performed. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) oversee the implementation of CLIA and are responsible for the oversight of these regulations in laboratory settings. Laboratories are required to be inspected and re-accredited every two years.

What are medical lab tests?

Lab tests are examinations performed on blood, body fluids, tissues, and other substances in order to determine what is normal or what is abnormal for you as a patient.

Why are medical lab tests such an important part of health care?

It has been estimated that 60-70 percent of all diagnoses and treatments are based on the results of lab tests. Your doctor may request one or many lab tests depending on your specific condition. Your doctor uses lab results to: identify changes in your health condition; diagnose a disease or condition; plan your treatment; evaluate your response to a treatment; and monitor the course of a disease over time.

Who can order medical lab tests?

Your medical or osteopathic doctor or other authorized, licensed health-care providers with the recognized authority to do so can order lab tests. Laboratories in New York State can accept orders from licensed providers, which does not, at this time, include naturopathic physicians.

Who performs the testing on laboratory specimens?

Most lab testing is performed by certified, college-degreed medical technologists or medical technicians or by pathologists who are board certified physicians with licenses to practice medicine. Testing personnel must satisfy rigid accreditation standards set forth by the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA ’88).

Do I need to make an appointment for having labs drawn?

Do I have to fast before my medical lab tests?

“Fast” means you cannot eat or drink anything for approximately 12 hours prior to the test. Fasting means you should not eat or drink any liquids except for water. You do not have to fast unless your doctor has ordered a “fasting” test. Two common tests that generally require fasting are a glucose test and a lipid panel.

Can I take my medications before I have medical lab tests?

Please ask your physician before having laboratory specimens collected.

Why do you need more than one tube of blood?

Different tests often require separate tubes of blood, some of which have special additives. We strive to draw the minimum amount of blood required for the tests your physician has ordered.

When will my test results be available?

Many test results are available within 4 to 24 hours. Multiple factors affect how soon test results are available. Tissue specimens, such as a tumor that is being analyzed for cancer, may take days to complete due to the numerous, complex steps that must be performed to process the specimen and requests for additional studies. Specimens submitted to be tested for bacteria or other microorganisms are cultured so the organisms can grow to a level where it can be seen. Other specialized tests may be sent to an outside reference laboratory, which may lengthen the turnaround time.

Can you tell me what the lab results mean?

Lab personnel are not allowed to interpret test results for the patient. Many tests have more than one purpose. We cannot tell you why you are having the test or what the results mean. We do not know your medical history and we are not doctors. Please speak with your doctor. Lab results are only a part of the total diagnostic picture of your health. Your doctor makes decisions based on your clinical symptoms, laboratory results, history and physical, and other diagnostic tests such as imaging studies.

Can I receive a copy of my test results?

You may access your laboratory results on My Cayuga Health If you have questions regarding your test results, please contact your ordering physician.

I am a hospital inpatient. Why are my blood specimens collected so early in the day?

Blood samples are collected primarily during the early morning hours beginning at 3 a.m. and continuing until 6:30 a.m. We do this so that most of the laboratory results are available for your physician by 7 a.m. It is important to have the results by 7 a.m. so your physician can to make decisions about your condition and your treatment for the day. Blood specimens can be collected throughout the day depending on the patient’s condition or treatment. In some instances, blood must be obtained at timed intervals in order to monitor specific conditions like cardiac enzymes for cardiac problems or to determine a diagnosis, such as a glucose tolerance test for diabetes.

Where do I call to find out if I have an order on file?

Please call Cayuga Medical Center Laboratory at 607-274-4474, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

I have a billing question; who do I call?

Please call the Billing Office at 607-274-4400.

For more information or to set up services, please contact:

Laboratory Outreach (607) 274-4474 

Brian Porter
Laboratory Outreach Supervisor
(607) 274-4474 or

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