Author(s): Plebani M
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Abstract The clinical interpretation of laboratory results is an integral part of laboratory services. However, while many clinical laboratories provide comments of some form or other in their reports, this provision varies from one country to another, and between laboratories in a single country. Over the last decade, the focus on medical errors and patient safety has spread worldwide, involving all medical disciplines, including laboratory medicine. While available evidence demonstrates that in recent decades an impressive reduction has been achieved in the rates of analytical errors in clinical laboratories, the pre- and post-analytic phases of the testing cycle are still error prone and, even more dramatic, affected by errors that could translate into harm and adverse events for patients. Interest in post-analytic errors, in particular, has increased the identification of problems not only before and during the reporting of laboratory results, but also in the physician's reactions to the transmission of data, their interpretation, and the appropriate action to take for the patient. Therefore, greater efforts should be made to facilitate the review, interpretation and utilization of test results. The continuation and expansion of interpretative commenting, part of a broad strategy to improve the transmission and communication of laboratory results, appear to be favored by several factors, including the introduction of new and complex tests, clinical and regulatory guidelines, data on clinicians' satisfaction and the impact of interpretative comments on patient outcomes. The appropriate training and education of laboratory professionals is a fundamental component in assuring quality and safety of interpretative comments. Moreover, quality assurance programs and an appropriate clinical audit are required to evaluate and improve upon this activity.
This article was published in Clin Chim Acta
and referenced in Journal of Hematology & Thromboembolic Diseases