Reducing Lab Errors

If you love the lab, then you should subscribe to Lab Soft News. Bruce Friedman does a really amazing job covering the LIS environment and often touches on EHR and EHR integrations as well. That’s how I discovered him many years ago (I think we’ve been blogging for about the same number of years).

Bruce’s post about laboratory errors is a good example of the amazing content he shares. He quotes an ECRI Institute report that has some eye opening statistics:

While participating hospitals attributed 25% of the errors to the lab, researchers found that only 4% of potentially harmful errors occurred in the lab. Specifically, researchers determined [that] [n]early 75% of errors occurred in the pre-analytic stage (when tests were selected, ordered, identified, and transported); and about 22% of errors occurred in the post-analytic stage (when tests were interpreted, reported, and stored)

Although, the money quote from his article comes at the end:

The notion of “breaking down silos” in hospitals to reduce preanalytic and postanalytic errors referred to in the excerpt above is easier said than done. I was in charge of the phlebotomy team for a number of years. In one case, I worked with the nursing service to effect a small change in the nursing procedure manual regarding the inspection of a patient ID bracelet prior to the labeling of a blood specimen. Everyone involved agreed that the change was necessary and appropriate but it took about six months to make the change in the nursing procedure manual. Lab test reporting these days has also been made much more complicated with the deployment of EHRs such that some changes require software rather than procedural modifications.

We’ve talked about EHR change and how hard it is to change before. This is another illustration of that challenge.

What I love most about the statistics above is that it reminds me that we are often looking in the wrong place to solve the problem. You’d think to solve lab errors you’d start in the laboratory, but the stats above show how important it is to look outside the lab to solve lab errors.

This reminds me of my article on the real cause of hospital readmissions. It brings me back to the constant need to analyze what’s really causing the problems. It’s really easy to get stuck doing what we’re use to doing. We need to step back and reevaluate our perspective sometimes.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.