An Examination of the Usefulness of Repeat Testing Practices in a Large Hospital Clinical Chemistry Laboratory

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A long-standing practice in clinical laboratories has been to automatically repeat laboratory tests when values trigger automated “repeat rules” in the laboratory information system such as a critical test result. We examined 25,553 repeated laboratory values for 30 common chemistry tests from December 1, 2010, to February 28, 2011, to determine whether this practice is necessary and whether it may be possible to reduce repeat testing to improve efficiency and turnaround time for reporting critical values. An “error” was defined to occur when the difference between the initial and verified values exceeded the College of American Pathologists/Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments allowable error limit. The initial values from 2.6% of all repeated tests (668) were errors. Of these 668 errors, only 102 occurred for values within the analytic measurement range. Median delays in reporting critical values owing to repeated testing ranged from 5 (blood gases) to 17 (glucose) minutes.

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