The role of safe blood collection and handling on sample integrity, accuracy and lab throughput

Last edited: | Sample Integrity - Back to overview

The recent pandemic has placed huge pressure on clinical laboratories. Surging demands above laboratory capacity have forced healthcare organizations to adapt, and there remain ongoing issues with supply chain and the retention of trained staff. We spoke to Henk Ruven in the Netherlands, Clinical Lead Specialist in laboratory medicine at St Antonius Ziekenhuis Hospital, to find out more.

“It’s very simple. You have to close your hospital”

Blood values play a crucial role in patient care for all departments and specialisms within a hospital. These values are a dictating factor in the medications and treatments a patient will be prescribed. If a hospital cannot place faith in their results, valuable time is lost in the care offered to a patient. “It's simply dangerous,” states Henk, with no ambiguity.

“It’s very simple. You have to close your hospital” says Henk, when asked about the impact of unreliable or unavailable equipment. “If the material is not of a good and stable quality; if it's not safe, then you will report the wrong results to your clinicians.”

The importance of quality controls

In the lab, stringent quality control measures are observed to enable absolute assurance of accuracy, in accordance with ISO 15189.

Henk explains: “It [ISO 15189] requires you to monitor your phlebotomists in how they perform blood collection. When there are puncture incidents, they are all reported. Regarding the safety of the material’s integrity; we do it with analytical quality controls. For some tests, we do it every hour. And for some tests, every day or every week.

Our analytical quality control is the main instrument to ensure that we report reliable lab results. And it also tells you about the quality of the tubes and the needles.”

“If you cannot produce reliable lab results, then the patient is not safe.”

Henk Ruven, Clinical Lead Specialist

A lack of reliable equipment wastes time

For Henk, being able to rely on the uniform quality of his equipment is one of a host of factors where there can be no compromise: “If your tubes are not of the right material, or if hemolysis takes place [the rupture or destruction of red blood cells] then you get unreliable lead values.”

With a new batch of tubes or needles, it has to have exactly the same composition with regards to construction, materials and additives, as the batches before [to ensure a reliable result ].”

With increasing demands for sampling and analysis, clinicians also need to trust their labelling with a reliable system that rules out duplication, misplacement and misdirected results. Manufacturers can play their part by providing easy-to-use equipment that integrates well with a hospital’s systems.

Keeping patients safe, keeping staff trained

Being able to train staff quickly is essential to healthcare systems struggling with staff retention. "If you have less trained personnel, then you want to have easy-to-use equipment that still delivers reliable blood results” says Henk. Laboratories continue to face mounting pressures but have found ways to optimize and ensure the welfare of everyone involved in phlebotomy. And on safety, Henk is clear: “If you cannot produce reliable lab results, then the patient is not safe.”

Safety and value, it’s in our blood

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