Error identification in a high-volume Clinical Chemistry laboratory: five-year experience

Document Type



Pathology and Microbiology



Quality indicators for assessing the performance of a laboratory require a systematic and continuous approach in collecting and analyzing data. The aim of this study was to determine the frequency of errors utilizing the quality indicators in a clinical chemistry laboratory and to convert errors to the Sigma scale.

Materials and Methods:

Five-year quality indicator data of a clinical chemistry laboratory was evaluated to describe the frequency of errors. An 'error' was defined as a defect during the entire testing process from the time requisition was raised and phlebotomy was done until the result dispatch. An indicator with a Sigma value of 4 was considered good but a process for which the Sigma value was 5 (i.e. 99.977% error-free) was considered well controlled.


In the five-year period, a total of 6,792,020 specimens were received in the laboratory. Among a total of 17,631,834 analyses, 15.5% were from within hospital. Total error rate was 0.45% and of all the quality indicators used in this study the average Sigma level was 5.2. Three indicators - visible hemolysis, failure of proficiency testing and delay in stat tests - were below 5 on the Sigma scale and highlight the need to rigorously monitor these processes.


Using Six Sigma metrics quality in a clinical laboratory can be monitored more effectively and it can set benchmarks for improving efficiency.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation