A new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regulation spells out what labs can and cannot do with proficiency testing (PT) samples and provides a three-tiered system of penalties for labs that break the rules. It particularly emphasizes the worst PT offense: referring a PT specimen to another lab.

The regulation comes in response to the Taking Essential Steps for Testing Act of 2012, which gave CMS more authority to punish labs that didn’t blatantly try to cheat on PT challenges, reports an article in the August issue of Clinical Laboratory News.

Understanding how to avoid getting in trouble under the new regulation is key for laboratorians. “It’s been said that laboratories should treat PT testing in the same manner that they would a normal patient sample, but that’s only true up to a point, and this final rule makes it more explicit that you can absolutely never send out a PT sample to another lab,” R. Bruce Williams, MD, chair of the Council on Scientific Affairs at the College of American Pathologists, told CLN. “When I explain this to laboratorians, I say that the PT sample cannot leave the four walls of your laboratory.”

Read the full article in CLN to understand the three levels of penalties and for additional information about how to stay out of trouble.