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Impact of analytical imprecision and bias on patient classification
An increase in analytical imprecision and/or the introduction of bias can affect the interpretation of quantitative laboratory results. In this study, we explore the impact of varying assay imprecision and bias introduction on the classification of patients based on fixed thresholds.
Simple spreadsheets (Microsoft Excel) were constructed to simulate conditions of assay deterioration, expressed as coefficient of variation and bias (in percentages). The impact on patient classification was explored based on fixed interpretative limits. A combined matrix of imprecision and bias of 0%, 2%, 4%, 6%, 8%, and 10% (tool 1) as well as 0%, 2%, 5%, 10%, 15%, and 20% (tool 2) was simulated, respectively. The percentage of patients who were reclassified following the addition of simulated imprecision and bias was summarized and presented in tables and graphs.
The percentage of patients who were reclassified increased with increasing/decreasing magnitude of imprecision and bias. The impact of imprecision lessens with increasing bias such that at high biases, the bias becomes the dominant cause for reclassification.
The spreadsheet tools, available as Supplemental Material, allow laboratories to visualize the impact of additional analytical imprecision and bias on the classification of their patients when applied to locally extracted historical results.