Mistakes in the laboratory are often avoidable. (pixabay/Mohamed Hassan)Hundreds of typical errors in laboratory diagnostics can be eliminated with a few fundamental changes, an MIT study has found. By looking at the system as a whole, problems known from aerospace technology could be identified – solution included.
Unclear structures, unclear responsibilities, outdated safety regulations, well-worn work steps: Hundreds of different errors in laboratory evaluation can be traced back to a few, albeit comprehensive, problems.
This is the conclusion of a study that looked at the laboratory testing system as a whole. This includes doctors who order the tests. It includes delivery and storage. It includes the training in the laboratory. And the companies that manufacture and sell the equipment must also be considered.
This complex system, consisting of countless individual parts, can be compared with the complexity of the aviation industry, according to the results of the study. This had similar problems, which can be effectively resolved if the complexity is also taken into account – according to the principles of systems theory.
As a result, the absolute number of people killed in accidents in the aviation industry has fallen over the last few decades, while the number of air passengers has increased every year.
Solutions are available
Equally dangerous are incorrect laboratory values or samples that are analyzed too late or are contaminated. The errors can be traced back to six problems, most of which can be avoided.
They include decentralization, faulty communication and coordination, too little focus on safety-relevant rules and adherence to outdated standards.
In addition, there is a lack of understanding of the complexity of the entire system and a lack of awareness of existing risks for incorrect diagnoses.
At least the first four problems could be quickly resolved through standardized letters, uniform designations and better training of staff in current standards. The last two problems, on the other hand, mean deep interventions in the structure of the laboratory system.
Instead, according to the study, the prevailing assumption is that doctors will notice errors in good time and thus prevent the majority of misdiagnoses. This shifts the responsibility for systemic problems onto individuals.
Even though this is a study of structures in the US laboratories, the approach appears to be very promising. Not tackling problems locally and in the smallest possible way, but rather eliminating the patterns behind them, sounds like a recipe that could also be helpful elsewhere.
Source : NotebookCheck