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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2008 Feb;132(2):206-10. doi: 10.1043/1543-2165(2008)132[206:AOSTOA]2.0.CO;2.

Accuracy of send-out test ordering: a College of American Pathologists Q-Probes study of ordering accuracy in 97 clinical laboratories.

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Department of Pathology, St Joseph Mercy Hospital, 5301 E Huron River Dr, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-0995, USA.



Errors entering orders for send-out laboratory tests into computer systems waste health care resources and can delay patient evaluation and management.


To determine (1) the accuracy of send-out test order entry under "real world" conditions and (2) whether any of several practices are associated with improved order accuracy.


Representatives from 97 clinical laboratories provided information about the processes they use to send tests to reference facilities and their order entry and specimen routing error rates.


In aggregate, 98% of send-out tests were correctly ordered and 99.4% of send-out tests were routed to the proper reference laboratory. There was wide variation among laboratories in the rate of send-out test order entry errors. In the bottom fourth of laboratories, more than 5% of send-out tests were ordered incorrectly, while in the top fourth of laboratories fewer than 0.3% of tests were ordered incorrectly. Order entry errors were less frequent when a miscellaneous test code was used than when a specific test code was used (3.9% vs 5.6%; P = .003).


Computer order entry errors for send-out tests occur approximately twice as frequently as order entry errors for other types of tests. Filing more specific test codes in a referring institution's information system is unlikely to reduce order entry errors and may make error rates worse.

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