External quality assessment (EQA) and alternative assessment procedures (AAPs) in molecular diagnostics: findings of an international survey

Clin Chem Lab Med. 2020 May 8;59(2):301-306. doi: 10.1515/cclm-2020-0101.


Objectives: Quality management for clinical laboratories requires the establishment of internal procedures including standard operating procedures (SOPs), internal quality control (QC), validation of test results and quality assessment. External quality assessment (EQA) and alternativeassessment procedures (AAPs) are part of the quality hierarchy required for diagnostic testing. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) document with requirements for conformance ISO 15189 and the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute document (CLSI) QMS24 require participation in EQA schemes and AAPs where applicable. The purpose of this study was to perform a global survey of EQA and AAPs for key procedures in molecular diagnostic laboratories.

Methods: The Committee for Molecular Diagnostics of the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC C-MD) conducted a survey of international molecular laboratories that covered specific topics of molecular diagnostic services as well as methods for EQA and AAPs. The survey addressed the following aspects: (1) usage of laboratory-developed test (LDT), (2) participation in EQA schemes and (3) performance of AAPs.

Results: A total of 93 responses from laboratories located in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America and South America were received. The majority of the participating laboratories (65.9%) use LDTs and 81.3% stated that it is mandatory for them to participate in EQA programs, while 22% of the laboratories reported not performing AAPs. Thirty-one percent of the laboratories use EQAs for fewer than 50.0% of their reported parameters/analytes.

Conclusions: While the majority of laboratories perform EQA and AAPs to improve their quality in molecular diagnostics, the amount of AAPs as quality procedures differs within the laboratories. Further surveys are necessary to clarify the existing needs in additional EQAs and standardized AAPs. The survey will also guide future efforts of the IFCC C-MD for identifying quality practices in need to improve harmonization and standardization within molecular diagnostics.

Keywords: ISO 15189; alternative assessment procedure; external quality assessment; molecular diagnostics.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques
  • Diagnostic Techniques and Procedures
  • Humans
  • Laboratories / standards*
  • Pathology, Molecular / methods*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / standards*
  • Quality Control*
  • Reference Standards
  • Surveys and Questionnaires