Background: Diagnostic errors occur in laboratory medicine resulting from an error or delay in diagnosis, a failure to employ indicated tests, and the use of outmoded tests. Since laboratory tests provide essential information used by physicians to make medical decisions, it is important to determine how often laboratory testing mistakes occur, whether they cause patient harm, where they are most likely to occur in the testing process, and how to prevent them from occurring.
Methods: The US Quality Institute Conference in 2003 and the Institute for Quality in Laboratory Medicine in 2005 brought together providers of, users of, and payers for laboratory services to explore how working together they could help to reduce laboratory testing errors and enhance patient safety.
Results and conclusions: Users of and payers for laboratory services must become partners in the laboratory's efforts to reduce laboratory testing errors and enhance patient safety. They must be linked to a laboratory information system that provides assistance in decisions on test ordering, patient preparation, and test interpretation. Laboratory quality assessment efforts need to be expanded to encompass the detection of non-analytical mistakes. Healthcare institutions need to adopt a culture of safety that is implemented at all levels of the organization.
Clin Chem Lab Med 2007;45:708–11.