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Mistakes happen, we are all painfully aware of that fact. However, most mistakes with proficiency testing can be avoided with proper instruction, accurate data entry and organization. In fact, when it comes to the required proficiency events in a physician office laboratory, mistakes can even be costly. I use the word “costly” first because of the time and effort spent by testing personnel to remediate these events once failures occur and second in reference to the fees that can now be assigned due to event failures. For instance, as of January 2024, fees have been assigned to proficiency desk reviews, a service that was previously provided at no cost by the state. But take heart, you can rest assured that by avoiding common mistakes made within proficiency events, acceptable proficiency performance may be achieved resulting in an accurate clinical picture of your patient. 

Follow Instructions for Proficiency Testing

Upon the arrival of the proficiency event, the samples must be stored as directed. Therefore, it is imperative that all instructions provided by your proficiency provider are followed to the letter. One common mistake testing personnel make is the assumption that one event is just like the last. However, this is not always the case. Once the event packaging is opened, read all directions carefully.  If anything is unclear, check with the proficiency provider website first and then call technical support if your questions are not answered.  The results you obtain are directly related to how well you follow and understand the instructions provided. Samples should be tested as soon as possible if an issue is found during testing. Testing sooner rather than later allows for time to get replacement samples if needed. Following instructions is the first line of defense against mistakes.

Verify Data Entry to Prevent Errors

Once your samples have been tested, it is time to submit your results to your proficiency provider. Online entry is the most direct method of data entry and it is now offered by all proficiency companies.  However, online entry is also where most mistakes occur. In fact, clerical errors account for the majority of proficiency failures. Some common examples of clerical errors include decimal points in the wrong place, the wrong analyzer or kit selected and whole values instead of percentages entered. In order to avoid these common mistakes, it is best to use the “buddy system”. The buddy system works by allowing two testing personnel to be involved in data entry.  The first person enters the results, the second person verifies the entry from the original result and then the data is submitted together after review. You and your buddy are more likely to produce accurate entries when working as a team to avoid the dreaded clerical error.

Stay Organized for Proficiency Testing Success

Proficiency events, as with most vital laboratory data, serve you best when properly organized. One of the most common errors cited during inspections is an incomplete proficiency event due to missing or incomplete paperwork. One primary way to avoid this error is to create a binder where all events may be easily accessed and reviewed.  In fact, your proficiency provider may offer this binder to you with the addition of a small fee and the binder is worth every penny. One way to organize your binder is to use a checklist of all required data within an event.  As each bullet point element is accounted for, that point is checked off allowing personnel to verify that all required data and signatures are present. When your checklist is complete your event will be inspection ready and clerical mistakes will be kept at bay.

Success Through Organization and Accuracy

In order to provide an example of how our tips may be useful, please consider the following scenario. A new client contacted our team because they were deemed unsuccessful in proficiency performance.  In fact, they had received a desk review from their state CLIA agency as a result of this unsuccessful record. Once on site, our team found an extreme lack of organization and multiple clerical errors which lead to performance issues in proficiency testing. After ordering remedial samples to get their official record back on track, our team went to work training the staff. The testing personnel were given forms and a binder to organize their event data, a new proficiency testing policy and introduced to the buddy system for data entry. Months later, this laboratory maintains an impeccable proficiency record and its event data is always ready for review.

Achieving Accurate Proficiency Testing

Avoiding errors is possible. Mistakes happen when instructions are not followed, results are not entered accurately and laboratory data is not organized. Using the instructions provided by your proficiency company, ensuring correct data entry with the buddy system and keeping a binder to hold all events are all great ways to avoid these common mistakes.  The bottom line for proper treatment is an accurate clinical picture of your patient. That accurate picture only comes from reliable results and reliable results are only obtained when proficiency testing is in good standing because mistakes are avoided.

If you need assistance with proficiency testing, reach out to DoctorsManagement today and connect with our CLIA specialists.

Call Us (800) 635-4040