Harmonization in laboratory medicine: the complete picture


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Abstract

Evidence of the acute lack of interchangeable laboratory results and consensus in current practice among clinical laboratories has underpinned greater attention to standardization and harmonization projects. Although the focus is mainly on the standardization of measurement procedures, the scope of harmonization goes beyond method and analytical results: it includes all other aspects of laboratory testing, including terminology and units, report formats, reference intervals and decision limits, as well as test profiles and criteria for the interpretation of results. This review provides further insight on the issue of harmonization in laboratory medicine in view of the urgent need for a complete picture now that old and new drivers are calling for more effective efforts in this field. The main drivers for standardization and harmonization projects are first and foremost patient safety, but also the increasing trends towards consolidation and networking of clinical laboratories, accreditation programs, clinical governance, and advances in Information Technology (IT), including the electronic patient record. The harmonization process, which should be considered a three-tier approach involving local, national and international fronts, must go beyond the harmonization of methods and analytical results to include all other aspects of laboratory testing. A pertinent example of the importance of a complete picture in harmonization programs is given by the National Bone Health Alliance working in the field of bone turnover markers in cooperation with scientific societies including the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC).

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