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Our doctors and urses depend on accurate and precise lab results in order to do their jobs well and give patients the best possible care. Often, laboratory results are the decision point in a patient’s treatment. With so much on the line, it’s no surprise that our laboratories are committed to constant improvement.
Before running any patient specimens on a hematology analyzer, performing a pregnancy test, or assessing bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics, our laboratory personnel run quality control (QC) on those tests. Samples with known values are tested: if the result isn’t right, everything stops until the lab can figure out why, and how to correct the problem.
Most QC is performed once daily, but some critical tests require that QC be run several times over the course of a day. If the results aren’t in the acceptable range, it’s an indication that something is wrong with the test, and patient results may be in question. Results are recorded and reviewed for outliers, shifts, and trends, in order to catch and correct instrument problems before they are severe enough to cause erroneous patient results. It’s also important that everyone in the lab takes a turn running QC samples for all tests they perform. Rotating QC is a way to assure that everyone can run the tests properly and get appropriate results.
Our laboratories have an absolutely essential role in overall healthcare quality. Making sure that results are accurate and timely ensures that patients are able to get the best care as quickly as possible. A huge percentage of medical decisions depend entirely on laboratory test results, so it’s only natural that quality is always a laboratory’s highest priority.