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It’s all about better quality and better patient safety

Forty years old this year, Labquality sees its mission as being to support, promote, and improve quality in the clinical testing and analytical and diagnostics work carried out in the some 4,500 medical laboratories and other health care units that take part in its EQA schemes.

Founded in 1971, Labquality is an independent and impartial organisation owned by the Finnish Society of Clinical Chemistry, and the association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities – together with 19 local hospital districts across the country, the Finnish Medical Association, the Finnish Red Cross, the Association of Medical Service Providers, and the Finnish Union of Experts in Science.

Labquality employs around 100 experts in running its External Quality Assessment (EQA) programmes. each programme, or scheme as they are often known, has its own dedicated expert. A total of approximately 150 schemes covering all fields of laboratory medicine are offered today, and around 4,500 laboratories in 48 countries currently participate. A network of 17 distributors, mainly based in Europe, serves locations outside Finland.

Labquality is a member of EQALM (External Quality Assessment in Laboratory Medicine) and cooperates with other EQA organisers in Europe; and its own quality system has been certified to the ISO 9001:2008 standard.

In addition to its core EQA business the Labquality group also includes two subsidiaries – Bioclin and Qualitor – which sell control materials for clinical laboratories and provide certification and auditing services. Labquality is also involved in the innovative WebMicroscope virtual microscopy project for digitising specimens and viewing virtual slides on a computer screen through its cooperation with the University of Helsinki and the University of Tampere.

Systematic monitoring promotes systematic improvement

EQA programmes have proved to be a very effective tool for improving quality over the years, and are continuing to evolve with the addition of new tests and methods to reflect the latest advances in the medical field, upgraded specimen materials, and Internet technology to maximise the benefit that participants – and ultimately patients – receive.

Internal and external quality control is essential to ensure the accuracy of clinical laboratory analyses.
Participation in a Labquality scheme is very simple. Order a survey, take delivery of the specimens and associated instructions, analyse the specimens, and send in the results. Statistical processing begins when a survey is closed and results are made available via the Internet as soon as they are ready, with more detailed reports following shortly after.

Labquality’s decades of experience as an EQA organiser and international cooperation with experts and EQA organisers elsewhere, together with its wide range of schemes, makes its offering a particularly strong one. Schemes are offered for different types of laboratories, such as clinical chemistry and microbiology laboratories, as well as primary health care units, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, and other point-of-care (POC) units. Customised programs can also be provided.

Labquality always uses high-quality specimens and easy-to-use sample materials, and provides detailed instructions on how they should be used. Authentic patient samples are employed wherever possible, and lyophilized samples when greater stability is called for.

POC schemes are designed to monitor antigen detection performance in respect of infections such as Streptococcus A and Influenza A and B, for example, and to establish the standard of other test procedures.

In the case of Strep A, for example, a typical Labquality scheme for doctor’s offices, health care centres, hospital wards, and clinical wards attracts up to 550 participants. Three ready-to-use simulated specimens are sent out for analysis to determine a positive or negative result. Deliveries are made four times a year and 2-3 weeks are allowed for analysis. Labquality provides preliminary results two days after the deadline and final reports within a three-week window. Reports include comments from survey experts and tabulated results designed to make it easy for participants to compare their own results with those of Labquality’s experts.

Other schemes follow a similar overall pattern, with specific differences to take account of the nature of the antigen or material being tested.

E-schemes are coming

Labquality mainly uses excel-based result sheets for general clinical chemistry results, such as serum A, Hb, CRP, bilirubin, and Daytrol, which participants send in by email.

The company has also launched several Internet schemes, and around 20 are currently available, with more on the way. These make use of Internet-based result forms, and reports are viewable and can be downloaded via the Internet as well.

Labquality’s decades of experience as an EQA organiser and international cooperation with experts and EQA organisers elsewhere, together with its wide range of schemes, makes its offering a particularly strong one.

“Quality and patient safety lie at the heart 
of Labquality’s mission.”

> Mauri Keinänen
(Published in HighTech Finland 2011)