Can a combination of average of normals and “real time” External Quality Assurance replace Internal Quality Control?

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Internal Quality Control and External Quality Assurance are separate but related processes that have developed independently in laboratory medicine over many years. They have different sample frequencies, statistical interpretations and immediacy. Both processes have evolved absorbing new understandings of the concept of laboratory error, sample material matrix and assay capability. However, we do not believe at the coalface that either process has led to much improvement in patient outcomes recently. It is the increasing reliability and automation of analytical platforms along with improved stability of reagents that has reduced systematic and random error, which in turn has minimised the risk of running less frequent IQC. We suggest that it is time to rethink the role of both these processes and unite them into a single approach using an Average of Normals model supported by more frequent External Quality Assurance samples. This new paradigm may lead to less confusion for laboratory staff and quicker responses to and identification of out of control situations.

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