Quality Assurance and the Clinical Laboratory

Edward T. Wong, MD; Janice M. Nelson, MD
JAMA. 1988;259(17):2584-2585. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03720170060036.
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The fundamental role of the laboratory is to provide information to help answer questions about the diagnosis of illness and the care of patients. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) requires that clinical laboratories participate in hospitalwide quality-assurance programs to monitor and evaluate the appropriateness of medical laboratory services and to correct problems that are identified and deal with clinical situations that require improvement.1 Quality-control programs now in place in clinical laboratories address only the integrity of the process that produces laboratory test results, not whether those tests benefit patient care.

See also p 2549.

In response to the new standard, it has been suggested that laboratories gather a plethora of statistics (so-called quality indicators).2 Such indicators may identify trends in laboratory operations but tell little about how those laboratory services relate to patient care. Unless it is interpreted and used to improve patient care,


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