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Advances in internal quality control

Quality control practices in the modern laboratory are the result of significant advances over the many years of the profession. Major advance in conventional internal quality control has undergone a philosophical shift from a focus solely on the statistical assessment of the probability of error identification to more recent thinking on the capability of the measurement procedure (e.g. sigma metrics), and most recently, the risk of harm to the patient (the probability of patient results being affected by an error or the number of patient results with unacceptable analytical quality). Nonetheless, conventional internal quality control strategies still face significant limitations, such as the lack of (proven) commutability of the material with patient samples, the frequency of episodic testing, and the impact of operational and financial costs, that cannot be overcome by statistical advances. In contrast, patient-based quality control has seen significant developments including algorithms that improve the detection of specific errors, parameter optimization approaches, systematic validation protocols, and advanced algorithms that require very low numbers of patient results while retaining sensitive error detection. Patient-based quality control will continue to improve with the development of new algorithms that reduce biological noise and improve analytical error detection. Patient-based quality control provides continuous and commutable information about the measurement procedure that cannot be easily replicated by conventional internal quality control. Most importantly, the use of patient-based quality control helps laboratories to improve their appreciation of the clinical impact of the laboratory results produced, bringing them closer to the patients.

Laboratories are encouraged to implement patient-based quality control processes to overcome the limitations of conventional internal quality control practices. Regulatory changes to recognize the capability of patient-based quality approaches, as well as laboratory informatics advances, are required for this tool to be adopted more widely.


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Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences

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