Are “Clerical Errors” Acceptable in Proficiency Testing?

Laboratories across the United States must complete Proficiency Testing (PT) and score a minimum of 80% score for all specialties (the exception is Transfusion Services, which requires a score of 100 percent). Occasionally, errors on PT could be attributed to “clerical error.” However, that should not be confused with “human unavoidable error.” Clerical errors in the clinical setting could bring serious harm to the patients and therefore, should be avoided and mitigated. Risk of patient safety within the three month period of the failed test event period should also be assessed after each unsuccessful PT event and education for personnel need to be conducted.

Once a supervisor or manager discovers their department has missed a PT survey because of clerical error, sometimes the only corrective action is to counsel the individual technologist, but no preventative action is taken. When that happens, there are no safeguards in place to keep the error from happening again; after all, these types of errors can happen to anyone, not just a specific employee. There should be an investigation for the root cause of the event. Review and assessment of the root cause analysis for the event could reveal that the technical personnel might have been rushed and didn’t double check the PT sample identity or result entry for the test. Could the clerical error been caused by unmanageable workloads, or sleep deprivation? Maybe the error was caused by general inattentiveness, such as failing to read instructions or mismanaging the samples. All of these examples highlight problems that are a great scope than “clerical error.”

Institutions must ensure their tests result are accurate and are free of any clerical/ transcription errors. These types of events should be reviewed by management with an appropriate preventive action/ mitigation to prevent it from occurring in the future.

Information on policies or practices are solely from my personal experience ONLY and have NO relation to my  affiliation with any regulatory or government agency.

satyadi

-Caroline Satyadi, MT(ASCP), SM, DLM, SLS, MBA, MS, CQA (ASQ) has been a laboratory management professional for over 25 years. She has worked with several different medical industries for CLIA/CMS, FDA/ICH/ISO, TJC/CAP/COLA/HFAP accreditation survey readiness.

One thought on “Are “Clerical Errors” Acceptable in Proficiency Testing?”

  1. I agree clerical errors are an important safety issue. However, clerical errors due to incorrect manual transcription of results have been reduced greatly due to direct transmission of results from automated instrumentation. If proficiency testing results can truly imitate a patient’s sample and electronically populate the PT form, then residual ‘clerical errors’ will be more meaningful.

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