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Using the Coefficient of Variation

In the clinical laboratory, the coefficient of variation is used for two main purposes:

  • Aid in the selection of a new method for routine use.
  • Monitor the inherent variability (precision) of a method already in routine use.
Selection of a new method for routine use requires comparative precision data. If the two methods being compared have different means and/or units, calculation of their CVs provides the comparison. (However, if two methods have the same units, and measure the same quantity, but have different means, this could be a sign that one of the instruments is calibrated incorrectly.)