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Preanalytical factors can negatively impact specimen quality and a laboratory’s ability to provide valid results, leading to potentially serious consequences for patients. These include over- or under dosing of medications, mismanaging or misdiagnosing cases, and even contributing to a patient’s death. AACC’s first conference on this topic, Optimizing Quality in the Clinical Laboratory: Focus on the Preanalytical Phase, will guide attendees on best practices and new strategies to improve preanalytical processes and quality.

Many studies indicate that most lab errors occur in the preanalytical phase of testing. “Healthcare quality and reduction in diagnostic errors is increasingly emphasized and discussed, making this an opportune time for this conference,” Stacy Melanson, MD, PhD, chair of the conference organizing committee, and associate medical director of clinical laboratories at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told CLN Stat.

Healthcare professionals can minimize these negative consequences by becoming aware of the factors that affect results and by formulating strategies and implementing protocols to overcome problems that occur before analyzers start their work. “By gaining and applying new skills in preventing preanalytical errors, healthcare professionals will help improve healthcare quality (better test results), costs (fewer redraws and repeat tests), and patient outcomes (more accurate diagnosis/treatment),” Melanson said.

Optimizing Quality in the Clinical Laboratory: Focus on the Preanalytical Phase will take place over a day-and-a-half, broken into three half-day sessions. Each session will feature 30-minute interactive presentations, utilizing an audience response system to encourage active engagement. The conference will also offer several 30-minute breakout sessions. Attendees will have plenty of opportunities to participate in topic discussions during these case-based, small group sessions.

The first day’s schedule builds in time for poster sessions and professional networking. “And of course there will be time for questions for all the speakers,” Melanson said.

The idea for this conference came about at AACC Management Sciences and Patient Safety Division executive leadership meetings in 2017 and 2018. “Feedback from our membership confirmed an interest in a meeting outside of the AACC Annual Scientific Meeting where healthcare professionals could share best practices, learn effective tools and strategies to solve preanalytical challenges, and network with like-minded colleagues,” Melanson said. The division leaders also thought this topic would have value in the United States, given the success of a similar conference on preanalytical testing hosted by the European Federation of Laboratory Medicine.

Melanson and her colleagues used two important guides to pick themes and topics and identify speakers for the conference. To appeal to a broad audience they wanted to present a variety of preanalytical challenges at different stages in the process (e.g. transporting specimens, detecting interferences, using metrics and dashboards, identifying and dealing with adulterated specimens). “The topics we choose touch on current preanalytical challenges as well as special patient populations (e.g. pediatrics),” she said. “We also ensured that some higher level presentations (e.g. the value of laboratories in healthcare) were included.” The organizing committee also prioritized making sessions interactive and plans to incorporate audience response systems and case-based breakout presentations.

Conference organizers expect not only to provide tools attendees can take home to their institutions but also to present new and future preanalytical technologies. “BD, the sole sponsor of this meeting, will have a 1-hour session on new technologies to supplement those presented by the speakers,” Melanson said.

The conference, Optimizing Quality in the Clinical Laboratory: Focus on the Preanalytical Phase, will take place November 11–12 in Alexandria, Virginia, and is worth 7.5 ACCENT credits. Register now for AACC’s first-ever conference on the preanalytical phase of testing.