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Lab lingo isn’t obvious, obviously.

I started working the in vitro diagnostics industry in 2022 and in a relatively short time, became acquainted with its jargon. It’s something I’d done many times before, having spent more than 20 years marketing for business publishers and trade event organisers. I had to immerse myself (albeit briefly) in the language of multiple industries, big sectors such as building, travel, oil & gas, agriculture and food, as well as more specialist areas such as dredging & port construction, oils & fats, maritime safety and breakbulk transport.

Whilst the IVD sector was relatively new to me, I’d known Dr Rob Porter as a friend for many years and was always fascinated by news of what he was developing. I hadn’t been in a lab since O Level chemistry in 1986, so his attempts to explain the science stuff sounded like gibberish to my untrained ear. However, I did understand the potential applications of lateral flow technology (LFT). They always seemed enormous and largely untapped.

Covid changed the landscape significantly. For a couple of years, everyone became familiar with lateral flow devices. One thing that I couldn’t fathom was how industry terminology had reached the end product, with the cassettes being marked with C and T.

I’m not the sharpest tool in the box, but I don’t think I’m a blunt instrument either. I’ve asked other people what they thought C and T meant. Covid and Test was a common answer – and that included the thoughts of a GP. Many concluded that if the T line was visible, the test was working and the C line told you if you had Covid or not. The answer was right, but the reading wasn’t.

Within a few months of joining RAPIvD, it was blindingly obvious what C and T referred to. I’ve stopped doing my straw poll research, but I’m willing to bet that a sizable percentage of normal folk would still misinterpret the meaning of Control and Test. We shouldn’t be so quick to assume that everyone is familiar with laboratory lingo.

The solution is (I think) relatively simple. It wouldn’t require focus groups or consultants. Just use numbers on the line indicators, let’s say 1 and 2. The user would then have to glance at the instructions to get an accurate reading, rather than relying on misguided intuition.

Oh, I forgot to mention, some devices have an S on them. That’s ok because it’s unambiguous. It’s where you put the liquid containing your Spit or Snot – obviously.



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