The commonly used statistic is that 70% of medical decisions rely on laboratory results. But what if the result is incorrect? Errors and the troubleshooting process are something that every laboratory struggles with. In a short course this afternoon, “Troubleshooting Clinical Laboratory Errors: A Collaborative Case Study,” Sol Green, PhD, Jack Zakowski, PhD, and Geoffrey Baird, MD, PhD will offer attendees new troubleshooting tools using case studies. They will illustrate mechanisms to both find and correct these errors, as well as identify procedures that prevent them from happening again.

In clinical laboratories, troubleshooting usually begins with a technologist detecting an error. Researchers have documented that approximately 70% of laboratory errors occur in the preanalytical phase. The pre-analytical phase is often the most challenging for laboratorians to troubleshoot, as it is the phase laboratorians have the least control over. In the course, Green will discuss troubleshooting the preanalytical phase of testing using real world examples.

Next, Zakowski will cover the analytical phase of testing. Of course, the analytical phase occurs entirely in the laboratory, where the lab has the most control. Questions that may be asked during troubleshooting include: Has the instrument been calibrated? Were the quality control materials run and acceptable? Are all the reagents within the expiration date? If the reagents are from a new lot, were they checked by running patient samples before use? Was the procedure followed exactly as written? What are the potential interferences in this method?

Finally, Baird will discuss his experience as a laboratory director with cases of post-analytical errors that may include transcription errors, failure to report a critical value, or incorrect interpretation.

In all three sections, the presenters will discuss both common errors as well as unusual examples that proved very challenging. Even the most experienced laboratorian is sure to learn something new.