Preanalytical errors in primary healthcare: a questionnaire study of information search procedures, test request management and test tube labelling


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Abstract

BackgroundMost errors in laboratory medicine occur in the preanalytical phase and are the result of human mistakes. This study investigated information search procedures, test request management and test tube labelling in primary healthcare compared to the same procedures amongst clinical laboratory staff.MethodsA questionnaire was completed by 317 venous blood sampling staff in 70 primary healthcare centres and in two clinical laboratories (response rate = 94%).ResultsCorrect procedures were not always followed. Only 60% of the primary healthcare staff reported that they always sought information in the updated, online laboratory manual. Only 12% reported that they always labelled the test tubes prior to drawing blood samples. No major differences between primary healthcare centres and clinical laboratories were found, except for test tube labelling, whereby the laboratory staff reported better practices. Re-education and access to documented routines were not clearly associated with better practices.ConclusionsThe preanalytical procedure in the surveyed primary healthcare centres was associated with a risk of errors which could affect patient safety. To improve patient safety in laboratory testing, all healthcare providers should survey their preanalytical procedures and improve the total testing process with a systems perspective.

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