Towards harmonisation of critical laboratory result management - Review of the literature and survey of Australasian practices

C. A. Campbell, A. R. Horvath*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Timely release and communication of critical test results may have significant impact on medical decisions and subsequent patient outcomes. Laboratories therefore have an important responsibility and contribution to patient safety. Certification, accreditation and regulatory bodies also require that laboratories follow procedures to ensure patient safety, but there is limited guidance on best practices. In Australasia, no specific requirements exist in this area and critical result reporting practices have been demonstrated to be heterogeneous worldwide. Recognising the need for agreed standards and critical limits, the AACB started a quality initiative to harmonise critical result management throughout Australasia. The first step toward harmonisation is to understand current laboratory practices. Fifty eight Australasian laboratories responded to a survey and 36 laboratories shared their critical limits. Findings from this survey are compared to international practices reviewed in various surveys conducted elsewhere. For the successful operation of a critical result management system, critical tests and critical limits must be defined in collaboration with clinicians. Reporting procedures must include how critical results are identified; who can report and who can receive critical results; what is an acceptable timeframe within which results must be delivered or, if reporting fails, what escalation procedures should follow; what communication channels or systems should be used; what should be recorded and how; and how critical result procedures should be maintained and evaluated to assess impact on outcomes. In this paper we review the literature of current standards and recommendations for critical result management. Key elements of critical result reporting are discussed in view of the findings of various national surveys on existing laboratory practices, including data from our own survey in Australasia. Best practice recommendations are made that laboratories are expected to follow in order to provide high quality and safe service to patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-160
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Biochemist Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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