Several studies have shown that recommendations related to how laboratory testing should be performed and results interpreted are limited in medical guidelines and that the uptake and implementation of the recommendations that are available need improvement. The EFLM/UEMS Working Group on Guidelines conducted a survey amongst the national societies for clinical chemistry in Europe regarding development of laboratory-related guidelines. The results showed that most countries have guidelines that are specifically related to laboratory testing; however, not all countries have a formal procedure for accepting such guidelines and few countries have guideline committees. Based on this, the EFLM/UEMS Working Group on Guidelines conclude that there is still room for improvement regarding these processes in Europe and raise the question if the accreditation bodies could be a facilitator for an improvement.
Background: Correct information provided by guidelines may reduce laboratory test related errors during the pre-analytical, analytical and post-analytical phase and increase the quality of laboratory results.
Methods: Twelve clinical practice guidelines were reviewed regarding inclusion of important laboratory investigations. Based on the results and the authors’ experience, two checklists were developed: one comprehensive list including topics that authors of guidelines may consider and one consisting of minimal standards that should be covered for all laboratory tests recommended in clinical practice guidelines. The number of topics addressed by the guidelines was related to involvement of laboratory medicine specialists in the guideline development process.
Results: The comprehensive list suggests 33 pre- analytical, 37 analytical and 10 post-analytical items. The mean percentage of topics dealt with by the guidelines was 33% (median 30%, range 17%–55%) and inclusion of a laboratory medicine specialist in the guideline committee significantly increased the number of topics addressed. Information about patient status, biological and analytical interferences and sample handling were scarce in most guidelines even if the inclusion of a laboratory medicine specialist in the development process seemingly led to increased focus on, e.g., sample type, sample handling and analytical variation. Examples underlining the importance of including laboratory items are given.
Conclusions: Inclusion of laboratory medicine specialist in the guideline development process may increase the focus on important laboratory related items even if this information is usually limited. Two checklists are suggested to help guideline developers to cover all important topics related to laboratory testing.
Reflective testing is a procedure in which the laboratory specialist adds additional tests and/or comments to an original request, after inspection (reflection) of the results. It can be considered as an extension of the authorization process where laboratory tests are inspected before reporting to the physician. The laboratory specialist will inevitably find inconclusive results, and additional testing can contribute to make the appropriate diagnosis. Several studies have been published on the effects of reflective testing. Some studies focus on the opinion of the general practitioners or other clinicians, whereas other studies were intended to determine the patient’s perspective. Overall, reflective testing was judged as a useful way to improve the process of diagnosing (and treating) patients. There is to date scarce high quality scientific evidence of the effectiveness of this procedure in terms of patient management. A randomized clinical trial investigating this aspect is however ongoing. Cost effectiveness of reflective testing still needs to be determined in the future. In conclusion, reflective testing can be seen as a new dimension in the service of the clinical chemistry laboratory to primary health care. Additional research is needed to deliver the scientific proof of the effectiveness of reflective testing for patient management.
Middle- and long-term biological variation data for hematological parameters have been reported in the literature. Within-day 24-h variability profiles for hematological parameters are currently lacking. However, comprehensive hour-to-hour variability data are critical to detect diurnal cyclical rhythms, and to take into account the ‘time of sample collection’ as a possible determinant of natural fluctuation. In this study, we assessed 24-h variation profiles for 20 hematological parameters.
Blood samples were collected under standardized conditions from 24 subjects every hour for 24 h. At each measurement, 20 hematological parameters were determined in duplicate. Analytical variation (CVA), within-subject biological variation (CVI), between-subject biological variation (CVG), index of individuality (II), and reference change values (RCVs) were calculated. For the parameters with a diurnal rhythm, hour-to-hour RCVs were determined.
All parameters showed higher CVG than CVI. Highest CVG was found for eosinophils (46.6%; 95% CI, 34.9%–70.1%) and the lowest value was mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC) (3.2%; 95% CI, 2.4%–4.8%). CVI varied from 0.4% (95% CI, 0.32%–0.42%) to 20.9% (95% CI, 19.4%–22.6%) for red cell distribution width (RDW) and eosinophils, respectively. Six hematological parameters showed a diurnal rhythm.
We present complete 24-h variability profiles for 20 hematological parameters. Hour-to-hour reference changes values may help to better discriminate between random fluctuations and true changes in parameters with rhythmic diurnal oscillations.
There is increasing interest in direct patient engagement including receiving their laboratory medicine results. We previously established an appetite for Specialists in Laboratory Medicine to support patients in understanding results. The aim of this study was to establish whether patients agreed with such an approach, determined through surveying views in eight European countries.
A standardized five-question survey was administered across eight European countries to a total of 1084 individuals attending medical outpatient clinics, with 100 patients each in Poland, Serbia, Netherlands, Turkey and Czech Republic, 101 in Estonia, 116 in Denmark and 367 in Norway. The responses across countries were compared using the chi-square test (p<0.05).
Patients wanting their results ranged from 50% to 94% (mean 65%) of those responding positively, a mean of 72% wanted additional information with their results; direct receipt was preferred over referral to a website. Specialists in Laboratory Medicine providing such information were acceptable to a mean of 62% of those respondents wishing their results; in countries where payment was possible, there was little interest in making additional payment for such a service.
A clear proportion of patients are interested in receiving their laboratory medicine results, the majority with explanatory notes; a role for Specialists in Laboratory Medicine is acceptable and raises the potential for direct engagement by such specialists with patients offering a new paradigm for the provision of laboratory medicine activities.
The joint consensus panel of the European Atherosclerosis Society (EAS) and the European Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (EFLM) recently addressed present and future challenges in the laboratory diagnostics of atherogenic lipoproteins. Total cholesterol (TC), triglycerides (TG), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDLC), LDL cholesterol (LDLC), and calculated non-HDLC (=total – HDLC) constitute the primary lipid panel for estimating risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) and can be measured in the nonfasting state. LDLC is the primary target of lipid-lowering therapies. For on-treatment follow-up, LDLC shall be measured or calculated by the same method to attenuate errors in treatment decisions due to marked between-method variations. Lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)]-cholesterol is part of measured or calculated LDLC and should be estimated at least once in all patients at risk of ASCVD, especially in those whose LDLC declines poorly upon statin treatment. Residual risk of ASCVD even under optimal LDL-lowering treatment should be also assessed by non-HDLC or apolipoprotein B (apoB), especially in patients with mild-to-moderate hypertriglyceridemia (2–10 mmol/L). Non-HDLC includes the assessment of remnant lipoprotein cholesterol and shall be reported in all standard lipid panels. Additional apoB measurement can detect elevated LDL particle (LDLP) numbers often unidentified on the basis of LDLC alone. Reference intervals of lipids, lipoproteins, and apolipoproteins are reported for European men and women aged 20–100 years. However, laboratories shall flag abnormal lipid values with reference to therapeutic decision thresholds.