A single contaminated laboratory specimen can trigger a cascade of adverse effects—from misdiagnosis, to delayed or incorrect treatment, the need to repeat tests, prolonged length of stay and, ultimately, reduced patient safety and satisfaction. When factoring in the tens of millions of patients in the U.S. that require blood culture tests every year, this adds up to a considerable amount of wasted time and money for a health system.
On average, 3% of all blood culture tests conducted in the U.S. for sepsis and other bloodstream infections are false-positive due to contamination. This means more than 1 million patients a year are at risk of misdiagnosis, unnecessary treatment with antibiotics and additional days in the hospital.
There is a belief that a small percentage of contaminated specimens is inevitable and that labs lack the authority or ability to influence specimen collection, handling and transport across an organization.
This belief can be a costly misconception.
“There's always room for improvement,” said Michael Yates, a manager for Lab Kitting Services at Cardinal Health. “False-positives are preventable. Getting it right the first time helps lead to improved patient satisfaction and outcomes. When you eliminate some of the errors, you increase physician confidence in the clinical laboratory.”
In many facilities, laboratory teams take a leadership role in the adoption of best practices to improve specimen integrity. “They have a tremendous amount of control over the processes and products used in collection,” Yates said.