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Ann Lab Med. 2014 May;34(3):187-97. doi: 10.3343/alm.2014.34.3.187. Epub 2014 Apr 8.

Harmonization: the sample, the measurement, and the report.

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Department of Pathology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA.
Pathology Queensland, Department of Chemical Pathology, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Blood Sciences, Old Medical School, Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, Leeds, UK.
SydPath, Department of Chemical Pathology, St. Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst, NSW, and University of New South Wales, Kensington, Australia.


Harmonization of clinical laboratory results means that results are comparable irrespective of the measurement procedure used and where or when a measurement was made. Harmonization of test results includes consideration of pre-analytical, analytical, and post-analytical aspects. Progress has been made in each of these aspects, but there is currently poor coordination of the effort among different professional organizations in different countries. Pre-analytical considerations include terminology for the order, instructions for preparation of the patient, collection of the samples, and handling and transportation of the samples to the laboratory. Key analytical considerations include calibration traceability to a reference system, commutability of reference materials used in a traceability scheme, and specificity of the measurement of the biomolecule of interest. International organizations addressing harmonization include the International Federation for Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, the World Health Organization, and the recently formed International Consortium for Harmonization of Clinical Laboratory Results (ICHCLR). The ICHCLR will provide a prioritization process for measurands and a service to coordinate global harmonization activities to avoid duplication of effort. Post-analytical considerations include nomenclature, units, significant figures, and reference intervals or decision values for results. Harmonization in all of these areas is necessary for optimal laboratory service. This review summarizes the status of harmonization in each of these areas and describes activities underway to achieve the goal of fully harmonized clinical laboratory testing.


Commutability; Harmonization; Standardization; Traceability

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