Why Pre-Analytical Procedures are Important in Laboratory Testing

Doctors use laboratory test results to make final decisions on the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. In fact, lab results influence about 70% of all clinical decisions. Laboratory testing can confirm a doctor’s suspicions, rule out other suspected causes of illness, check to make sure that a treatment is working properly, and even screen a patient for treatable conditions. Tests conducted in the lab measure everything from a patient’s red blood cell count to whether or not they have a bacterial infection, and can covey a lot of information about a patient’s condition.

It’s no surprise then that errors in the lab can have a huge impact on patient care. Mistakes in these test results are responsible for approximately 93% of diagnostic errors.

Read on to find out how Medical Lab Assistants implement proper procedures at the Pre-Analytical stage, and how those procedures help patients get the care and treatment they need.

Common Pre-Analytical Errors in the Laboratory

A professional with Medical Laboratory Assistant training knows that the pre-analytical phase – when a specimen is collected, transported, and processed – is a crucial part of the lab testing process. Over 40% of lab errors happen during the pre-analytical stage, while a mere 7% occur during the actual testing. These errors result in added medical costs when tests have to be re-issued, and can sometimes lead to patient misdiagnosis and in extreme cases they can be the cause of serious patient illness. Pre-analytical errors can occur at any point during the specimen collection process. Here are the types of errors which most commonly occur:

  • Before specimen collection: Patient is misidentified, specimen tubes are incorrectly labeled or aren’t labeled at all, patient did not follow proper procedures before test (such as fasting).
  • During specimen collection: Tourniquet not applied properly, insufficient amount of specimen collected, blood samples collected in the wrong order.
  • Transport and Processing: Specimens did not make it to the lab in time, specimens were not stored at the proper temperature.

The Benefits of Proper Pre-Analytical Procedures for Lab Workers

Medical lab assistant courses teach graduates how to sort, prepare, and collect specimens for lab testing.

These medical lab assistants are up-to-date on the best practices in the field, and know how to:

  • Use new technology to properly label specimen collection tubes
  • Properly identify patients before specimen collection
  • Properly sterilize the blood collection site
  • Use proper venipuncture procedures
  • Ensure that specimens are transported safely

When a dedicated staff member takes care of pre-analytical procedures, the amount of errors that happen during the pre-analytical phase drops dramatically. One study found that having dedicated laboratory technologists in emergency departments reduced blood culture contamination rates by 78% (lowered from 5% to 1.1%).

Are you interested in pursuing a career as a Medical Laboratory Assistant? Find out how you can start your Medical Lab Assistant training in BC today.

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