Assessing Clinical Laboratory Quality: A College of American Pathologists Q-Probes Study of Prothrombin Time INR Structures, Processes, and Outcomes in 98 Laboratories

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Archives of pathology & laboratory medicine


CONTEXT: The anticoagulant warfarin has been identified as the second most frequent drug responsible for serious, disabling, and fatal adverse drug events in the United States, and its effect on blood coagulation is monitored by the laboratory test called international normalized ratio (INR).

OBJECTIVE: To determine the presence of INR policies and procedures, INR practices, and completeness and timeliness of reporting critical INR results in participants' clinical laboratories.

DESIGN: Participants reviewed their INR policies and procedure requirements, identified their practices by using a questionnaire, and studied completeness of documentation and timeliness of reporting critical value INR results for outpatients and emergency department patients.

RESULTS: In 98 participating institutions, the 5 required policies and procedures were in place in 93% to 99% of clinical laboratories. Fifteen options for the allowable variations among duplicate results from different analyzers, 12 different timeliness goals for reporting critical values, and 18 unique critical value limits were used by participants. All required documentation elements were present in 94.8% of 192 reviewed INR validation reports. Critical value INR results were reported within the time frame established by the laboratory for 93.4% of 2604 results, but 1.0% of results were not reported. Although the median laboratories successfully communicated all critical results within their established time frames and had all the required validation elements based in their 2 most recent INR calculations, those participants at the lowest 10th percentile were successful in 80.0% and 85.7% of these requirements, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Significant opportunities exist for adherence to INR procedural requirements and for practice patterns and timeliness goals for INR critical results' reporting.

Medical Subject Headings

Anticoagulants; Clinical Laboratory Services; Humans; International Normalized Ratio; Laboratories; Laboratory Proficiency Testing; Pathology, Clinical; Prothrombin Time; Quality Control; Reference Standards; Societies, Medical; United States; Warfarin

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