How can you explain traceability in laboratory medicine to your clinician users?


A recent article by Graham Jones in his local hospital journal provides one approach to answer this question (download here). 

Clinicians who use laboratory medicine services take it for granted that the laboratory provides ‘the right result’. They believe that the result they get back from their laboratory is both accurate and capable of comparison with results obtained from other laboratories or retrieved from the medical/scientific literature.  It comes as a shock to most clinicians to learn that for many results they receive there is significant between-method variability. In some cases, the variability may be such that clinical outcomes and even patient safety may be compromised if they compare the results that they get from their local laboratory with literature or clinical practice guideline results that were obtained using a different method.

Traceability in laboratory medicine (TLM) is the key to reducing between-method variability. IFCC is a founder member of the Joint Committee for Traceability in Laboratory Medicine (JCTLM), which “supports world-wide comparability, reliability and equivalence of measurement results in laboratory medicine, for the purpose of improving health care and facilitating national and international trade in in vitro diagnostic devices”.  The website provides freely available resources to help laboratory medicine specialists to understand TLM and to train others to appreciate its importance. These resources take the form of webinars, PowerPoint presentations, symposia at scientific meetings and publications.

As part of the support provided to its users the clinical laboratory has a responsibility to alert clinicians to between-method variability and the pitfalls that could arise. At the same time clinicians can be reassured that there is a global effort to reduce the problem to make results more comparable. The article by Graham Jones from St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, Australia provides an excellent template for communication with clinician users. Entitled ‘Chemical Pathology – Getting the Right Answer’ the article is written in non-technical language using examples that may be understood by clinicians and other healthcare professionals. Key references are included.

The article is published in the St Vincent’s Clinic, Proceedings (Sydney) Volume 25, 1 December 2017. It may be downloaded here. The article may be reproduced or modified for local use as long as an acknowledgement is provided to the original publication. The article provides you with an opportunity to educate and support your clinical users.





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