Medical Errors: Pre-Analytical Issue in Patient Safety
The last few decades have seen a significant decrease in the rates of analytical errors in clinical laboratories, while a growing body of evidence demonstrates that the pre- and post-analytical steps of the total testing process (TTP) are more error-prone than the analytical phase. In particular, most errors are identified in pre-pre-analytic steps outside the walls of the laboratory, and beyond its control. However, in a patient-centred approach to the delivery of health care services, there is the need to investigate, in the total testing process, any possible defect that may have a negative impact on the patient, irrespective of which step is involved and whether the error depends on a laboratory professional (e.g. calibration or testing error) or a non-laboratory operator (e.g. inappropriate test request, error in patient identification and/or blood collection). In the pre-analytic phase, the frequency of patient/specimens misidentification and the presence of possible causes of specimen rejection (haemolysis, clotting, insufficient volume, etc.) represent a valuable risk for patient safety. Preventing errors in the pre-analytical steps requires both technological developments (wristband, barcodes, pre-analytical workstations) and closer relationships with the clinical world to achieve an effective team-working cooperation. The most important lesson we have learned, therefore, is that laboratory errors and injuries to patients can be prevented by redesigning systems that render it difficult for all caregivers and in all steps of the total testing process to make mistakes.
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