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An overview of quality control practices in Ontario with particular reference to cholesterol analysis

Clinical Biochemistry
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0009-9120(98)00103-9
  • Proficiency Testing
  • Quality Control
  • Statistical Quality Control
  • Quality Systems
  • Management


Abstract Background: The Laboratory Proficiency Testing Program (LPTP) assesses the analytical performance of all licensed laboratories in Ontario. The LPTP Enzymes, Cardiac Markers, and Lipids Committee conducted a “Patterns of Practice” survey to assess the in-house quality control (QC) practices of laboratories in Ontario using cholesterol as the QC paradigm. Design and methods: The survey was questionnaire-based seeking information on statistical calculations, software rules, review process and data retention, and so on. Copies of the in-house cholesterol QC graphs were requested. A total of 120 of 210 laboratories were randomly chosen to receive the questionnaires during 1995 and 1996; 115 laboratories responded, although some did not answer all questions. Results: The majority calculate means and standard deviations (SD) every month, using anywhere from 4 to >100 data points. 65% use a fixed mean and SD, while 17% use means calculated from the previous month. A few use a floating or cumulative mean. Some laboratories that do not use fixed means use a fixed SD. About 90% use some form of statistical quality control rules. The most common rules used to detect random error are 1 3s/ R 4s while 2 2s/4 1s/10 x are used for systematic errors. About 20% did not assay any QC at levels >5.5 mmol/L. Conclusions: Quality control data are reviewed daily (technologists), weekly and monthly (supervisors/directors). Most laboratories retain their QC records for up to 3 years on paper and magnetic media. On some QC graphs the mean and SD, QC product lot number, or reference to action logs are not apparent. Quality control practices in Ontario are, therefore, disappointing. Improvement is required in the use of clinically appropriate concentrations of QC material and documentation on QC graphs.

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