Why Pre-Analytical Procedures are Important in Laboratory Testing

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Young woman in the medical laboratory

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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