Performance specifications for the extra-analytical phases of laboratory testing: Why and how.
An important priority in the current healthcare scenario should be to address errors in laboratory testing, which account for a significant proportion of diagnostic errors. Efforts made in laboratory medicine to enhance the diagnostic process have been directed toward improving technology, greater volumes and more accurate laboratory tests being achieved, but data collected in the last few years highlight the need to re-evaluate the total testing process (TTP) as the unique framework for improving quality and patient safety. Valuable quality indicators (QIs) and extra-analytical performance specifications are required for guidance in improving all TTP steps. Yet in literature no data are available on extra-analytical performance specifications based on outcomes, and nor is it possible to set any specification using calculations involving biological variability. The collection of data representing the state-of-the-art based on quality indicators is, therefore, underway. The adoption of a harmonized set of QIs, a common data collection and standardised reporting method is mandatory as it will not only allow the accreditation of clinical laboratories according to the International Standard, but also assure guidance for promoting improvement processes and guaranteeing quality care to patients.