Background: Critical values' reporting is an essential requisite for clinical laboratories. Local policies were investigated within an indicative cohort of Italian laboratories to monitor the situation and establish a performance benchmark.
Methods: A five-point questionnaire was administered to 150 laboratory specialists attending the SIMEL (Italian Society of Laboratory Medicine) National Meeting in June 2006.
Results: A total of 107 questionnaires (71.3%) were returned with a 100% individual question response rate. Only 55% of the participants acknowledge critical values reporting as an essential practice, 80% admit that a comprehensive list of critical values is unavailable in the laboratory and 4% do not promptly communicate critical values. The list of critical values is variable among laboratories, ranging from none to 20 analytes included. The requesting physician or his/her office staff receives the great majority (97%) of notifications by telephone for outpatients. Critical values for inpatients are notified directly by telephone (81%) and in a minority of cases by either fax or computer (19%). In the inpatient setting, the information is notified to physicians (77%), nurses (15%) or other healthcare staff in the clinic (8%). It was found that 49% of the participants adopt a standard (digital or written) policy for routine recording of notifications; in 32% of the cases the registration is left to individual attitudes, whereas in 20% of the cases the notification is not recorded. No laboratory has yet adopted a read-back verification of the complete test result by the person receiving the information.
Conclusions: The importance of critical value reporting is still poorly recognized in Italy and uniform or internationally accredited practices for communication and recording are not currently implemented.
Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (
CCLM) publishes articles on novel teaching and training methods applicable to laboratory medicine.
CCLM welcomes contributions on the progress in fundamental and applied research and cutting-edge clinical laboratory medicine. It is one of the leading journals in the field, with an impact factor of over three.
CCLM is the official journal of nine national clinical societies and associated with EFLM.