A new study shows that the third leading cause of death is from medical laboratory errors, only after heart disease and cancer. Though this is alarming and concerning, it highlights a much larger problem, as many medical errors aren’t lethal. One proposal defines a medical error as “an act of omission or commission in planning or execution that contributes or could contribute to an unintended result.”
By this definition, failures in laboratory tests contribute to delayed or wrong diagnoses and unnecessary costs and care.
These include tests for genetic disorders, lead poisoning, and diabetes, and the results routinely guide diagnostic and therapeutic decisions.
Despite its ubiquity, in my practice as a laboratory director and medical educator, I frequently experience misperceptions that diagnostic laboratory tests are always correct and useful, even though a primary tenant of my field is ‘no test performs perfectly’.
Everyone should know that whether due to misuse or a failure mode, all lab tests have limitations. Some of the most common reasons include mistakes in ordering lab tests—meaning the right tests are not ordered at the right time—and problems with the accuracy, availability, and interpretation of their results.
Laboratory errors happen despite a strong focus on quality operations
These Lab-related errors include collecting the sample in the wrong container and issues relating to patient preparation and sample mix-ups.
Clinical laboratories operate under stringent quality regulations that cover all phases of the lab testing process – from ordering to reporting.
At Dr PhysiQ, using verified methods operations are designed for prevention and early identification of errors. Test methods are validated for robust analytical performance.
We investigate when a result doesn’t make sense, given other available information with follow up on all testing that is performed.
Lab testing is a frequent and integral part of healthcare and the diagnostic process. Most tests are imperfect, but awareness of these pitfalls and doing something about them will increase the quality of your healthcare.