Traceability in laboratory medicine: a global driver for accurate results for patient care

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Laboratory medicine results influence a high percentage of all clinical decisions. Globalization requires that laboratory medicine results should be transferable between methods in the interests of patient safety. International collaboration is necessary to deliver this requirement. That collaboration should be based on traceability in laboratory medicine and the adoption of higher order international commutable reference materials and measurement procedures. Application of the metrological traceability chain facilitates a universal approach. The measurement of serum cholesterol and blood HbA1c serve as examples of the process of method standardization where an impact on clinical outcomes is demonstrable. The measurement of plasma parathyroid hormone and blood HbA2 serve as examples where the current between-method variability is compromising patient management and method standardization and/or harmonization is required. Challenges to the widespread adoption of traceability in laboratory medicine include the availability of reference materials and methods, geographical differences, the use of variable units, complex analytes and limited global coordination. The global collaboration requires the involvement of several different stakeholder groups ranging from international experts to laboratory medicine specialists in routine clinical laboratories. A coordinated action plan is presented with actions attributable to each of these stakeholder groups.

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