In the December issue of CAP TODAY, Nikola Baumann, Ph.D., and Paula Santrach, M.D., were interviewed for the article, "Finding and fixing large-scale laboratory errors." Focusing on laboratory errors, the article discusses how, even when quality systems and management plans are in place, laboratory errors still occur — especially as laboratories become more automated and test volumes grow.
According to Dr. Baumann, "A physician might actually touch 10 or 20 patients a day. In our laboratory, we touch 10,000 patients a day. The causes [of errors] might be calibration instability, instrument problems, assay interferences, variations in reagent quality, or preanalytic variables. Any of those can contribute to a large-scale testing error. And there are often anywhere from a few to hundreds of patient results affected before the error is identified.” While well-designed quality control plans that incorporate both quality control and patient data can help laboratories detect these issues, it is still crucial to implement an appropriate recovery plan.
Stressing the importance of a response and recovery plan, Dr. Baumann and Dr. Santrach outlined the steps laboratories should consider taking upon discovering errors, including identifying the cause of the error, how long it has been occurring, preventing additional errors and correcting the error.