Lab Processes and Procedures / Laboratory Quality Control

Ensuring Accurate Laboratory Quality Control Results

Ensuring Accurate Laboratory Quality Control ResultsWeb-based laboratory quality control solutions

Monitoring Internal Quality Control (IQC) is of paramount importance in ensuring accurate patient test results are reported. But while testing instruments, processes and reagents are undoubtedly crucial in the laboratory setting, they are only one part of a bigger quality control picture.

The ability to correctly interpret the resulting data arising from internal QC is vital, however in order to do so adequately, laboratories need to be able to monitor their performance as part of a wider data picture.

Consider an independent laboratory running internal controls on Bilirubin and reporting results that are 25% low to target. In isolation, the laboratory must start a time-consuming process of troubleshooting to identify the cause of the anomalies, with the possibility of having to re-run QC, further delaying the release of patient results.

Now consider the same laboratory running the same tests but utilising a data-management platform to monitor performance, giving them access to data from multiple laboratories running the same tests. Now the laboratory is no longer viewing the lower than expected results in isolation, they can look at the performance of their peers, making troubleshooting a great deal easier and ensuring a faster turnaround of accurate patient results.

Some laboratories view peer group data-sharing as a necessary evil, simply something you ought to do as part of laboratory accreditation. However by embracing the full potential online data-management platforms offer, your lab could see considerable improvements in the effectiveness of laboratory quality control processes.

When used to their full potential data management systems offers a myriad of benefits,  assisting laboratories to manage, interpret and compare QC data with other laboratories with the overall aim of improving analytical performance and ultimately ensuring accurate patient test results. In summary, such systems can help laboratories:

  • Identify trends, instrument errors or reagent issues as soon as they arise, assuring validity and increasing confidence in the accuracy of results.
  • Improve EQA performance by eliminating any undetected bias.
  • Minimise false rejections whilst maintaining high error detection through the use of multi-rule QC procedures.
  • Help laboratories have confidence in assigned target values.
  • Facilitate regulatory requirements and meet ISO 15189 accreditation.

There are a host of data management systems already available in the global market. So what should you look for when choosing a peer group reporting platform?

Web-based systems are generally more convenient as data can be accessed anywhere, anytime.  Being web-based removes the need for local installation so updates and back-up can usually be carried out automatically, reducing the need for on-site IT support. QC data can be securely stored online, and some platforms offer multi-level passwords and encrypted passwords to ensure confidentiality and security.

Choose a platform that offers direct connectivity to your laboratory’s instruments, LIMS/LIS or middleware to facilitate automated data import. This saves laboratory staff time, as well as reducing the potential for problems associated with manual data entry.

Rapid access to current peer group data can make a significant difference to the troubleshooting process, so make sure your chosen platform offers an update cycle of 24 hours, or real time if available. Having immediate access to the most up to date peer group data allows immediate comparison of data from multiple laboratories and instruments, which can significantly speed up troubleshooting. It may even help identify potential issues before they arise.

Ease of use for laboratory staff is a key consideration so choose a package that offers a simple and intuitive user interface. It’s vital that staff can easily identify poor or failed QC results so go for a system that offers a colour-code system, or equivalent, for ease of identification.  Some platforms allow users to set their own defined fixed means and SDs, whilst some will also automatically calculate mean, SD and CV% based on monthly or cumulative data, and such variations.

A comprehensive system will give you access to all the data charts you might need, providing a visual indication of any bias or imprecision issues.  Interactive systems will allow you to combine data for multiple QC lots, parameters and instruments on a single Levey-Jennings or Histogram chart for a comprehensive review of trends and shifts.  In addition, some systems allow you to add comments and action points, further enhancing data review capability.

The availability of detailed reports is a must, if you are to fully monitor and review your laboratories performance. They provide a secure audit trail, a useful tool for documenting the review process, and may even help laboratories meet regulatory requirements.

Being web-based software, there is generally greater flexibility to meet the individual needs of the laboratory. If you have specific language requirements for a network of laboratories across different countries, this should not be a problem as software is often available in a range of languages.

Finally, give some consideration to the support you will receive from the provider. Can training (for example face-to-face or online tutorials) be provided for laboratory staff to help them get up to speed with the new system? Also, give consideration to the support network on offer from the provider should you encounter problems or simply have questions you need answered.

With the right peer group data-management system in place, monitoring internal laboratory quality control could get a whole lot easier. Shop around and find yourself the best one to suit your laboratory needs.

David Hunter is global QC manager, Randox Laboratories.



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