Selecting clinical quality indicators for laboratory medicine

Ann Clin Biochem. 2012 May;49(Pt 3):257-61. doi: 10.1258/acb.2011.011159. Epub 2012 Mar 15.


Background: Quality in laboratory medicine is often described as doing the right test at the right time for the right person. Laboratory processes currently operate under the oversight of an accreditation body which gives confidence that the process is good. However, there are aspects of quality that are not measured by these processes. These are largely focused on ensuring that the most clinically appropriate test is performed and interpreted correctly.

Methods: Clinical quality indicators were selected through a two-phase process. Firstly, a series of focus groups of clinical scientists were held with the aim of developing a list of quality indicators. These were subsequently ranked in order by an expert panel of primary and secondary care physicians.

Results: The 10 top indicators included the communication of critical results, comprehensive education to all users and adequate quality assurance for point-of-care testing. Laboratories should ensure their tests are used to national standards, that they have clinical utility, are calibrated to national standards and have long-term stability for chronic disease management. Laboratories should have error logs and demonstrate evidence of measures introduced to reduce chances of similar future errors. Laboratories should make a formal scientific evaluation of analytical quality.

Conclusions: This paper describes the process of selection of quality indicators for laboratory medicine that have been validated sequentially by deliverers and users of the service. They now need to be converted into measureable variables related to outcome and validated in practice.

MeSH terms

  • Accreditation
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / standards*
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Quality Control
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care / standards*
  • Research Design