When monitoring patients over time, it may be difficult to distinguish ‘real changes’ from so-called ‘natural fluctuations’ when interpreting consecutive laboratory results. Consider a patient whose cholesterol level has decreased from a baseline 6.6 mmol/L to 6.1 mmol/L six months after receiving lifestyle advice. How likely is it that this is a ‘real change’, reflecting a lifestyle change, rather than random fluctuation? Physicians mostly rely on their intuition and clinical experience when interpreting changes in consecutive laboratory results. For inexperienced physicians, the lack of an easy reference for the interpretation of consecutive laboratory results can make decision-making challenging. We have developed the medical/educational smartphone app Labtracker+ that calculates the probability of a ‘real change’ between two consecutive laboratory results, using biological variation data from scientific literature and analytical precision that is achieved in contemporary laboratories. This approach may complement intuitive, experience-based interpretations of consecutive laboratory results.
Conflict of interest and financial support: none declared.