EFLM President Mauro Panteghini Speaks Out
The EFLM President weighs in on preanalytical phase errors and what can be done about them.
What is your view on the achievements of the WG-PA versus the overall objectives set out by EFLM?
EFLM WG on Preanalytical Phase (WG-PA) is doing an excellent job. At the time when this WG was established (in 2012), there was no other formalized activity by international bodies relating to the preanalytical phase. The objective of the EFLM executive board and the science committee was to increase the level of awareness about the importance of the preanalytical phase among healthcare professionals. Today, this working group is an internationally-recognized driving force in this field, leading the way towards the global harmonization of this very important part of laboratory medicine.
What, in your opinion, are the most important initiatives that the group is involved in?
WG-PA is very active in several specific areas; all of them are equally important. They have set up a series of highly successful biannual conferences on the preanalytical phase, starting from the first one held in Parma (Italy) back in 2011. These conferences get an increasing number of participants globally; the most recent was held in Portugal in March 2015 and was attended by almost 600 participants. Furthermore, the WG has published a number of papers that report the results of their surveys, recommendations, opinions, etc. Finally, this WG has recently initiated an important project on the standardization of the colors of blood tube closures (12). Besides professionals in laboratory medicine, important stakeholders in this project include manufacturers of blood drawing systems. This is a good sign and reflects the appreciation of our IVD partners of the work of this group.
In your view, how much of an issue is preanalytical phase error; what parts of the testing cycle are most prone?
The preanalytical phase has been demonstrated to make the largest contribution to the overall error rate in the total examination process (TEP). Every step of TEP is prone to errors. However, errors cannot have the same effect on patients. Some errors may just cause patients discomfort, some may lead to delays in treatment and some even produce a fatal outcome. To minimize the risk, one needs to know all sources of errors and their consequences. Education and standardization of preanalytical phase steps is the key to success. This is exactly what the EFLM WG-PA is working on.
What, in your opinion, have been some of the key successes as a result of the work of this group? And why would you consider those successes to be so important?
As a result of the group’s 'pioneering' work, there is currently much more attention on the preanalytical phase among national societies, both European and international. For instance, during the last couple of years, many national societies dealing with laboratory medicine have established preanalytical working groups and the majority have delegated their representatives to the WG-PA.
During the last conference held in Portugal, EFLM members agreed that harmonization on preanalytical phase is necessary and they all declared a willingness to work with EFLM on this. Consequently, WG-PA will set up further projects aiming to improve harmonization at a European level, for example, on the preparation of guidelines for venous blood sampling. This clearly demonstrates the trust that others place in the WG-PA to carry out this important work and EFLM is very proud of that achievement.
How do you hope the work of the WG will impact the laboratory medicine community now and in the future?
I am sure that their work will greatly contribute to the overall harmonization of preanalytical phase testing in Europe and, possibly, even beyond. This will inevitably lead to a reduction in the overall error rate in TEP and, consequently, increase patient safety.
Mauro is Professor of Clinical Biochemistry and Clinical Molecular Biology at the University of Milan Medical School, Italy. He is also Director of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Director of Clinical Pathology Unit of the “Luigi Sacco” University Hospital, Milan. President of the European Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (EFLM), he has published over 460 manuscripts, and given over 110 invited lectures, both nationally and internationally.
Speaking of the work of the EFLM preanalytical phase working group, he says, “Today [it] is an internationally-recognized driving force in this field, leading the way towards global harmonization.”