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The Pre-analytical Phase and Importance of Minimizing Variability

The pre-analytical phase encompasses everything that happens to a sample prior to its analysis. This broadly includes:
  • Patient identification
  • Patient preparation
  • Sample collection
  • Sample transport
  • Sample handling
  • Sample preparation
  • Sample storage

Why is it important to minimize pre-analytical variability?
For each of these steps, there are several opportunities for factors to affect the accuracy of the analysis itself. Clinicians make patient care decisions based on the results of laboratory testing. Pre-analytical errors can have a significant negative impact that prevents the delivery of quality patient care. These negative outcomes can range from unnecessary redraws and delayed results, to improper treatment, misdiagnosis, and even death.
While all members of the healthcare team play important roles in minimizing pre-analytical variability, those involved with direct patient contact and sample collection, primarily the phlebotomists, serve the most vital role in assuring sample quality and integrity, which leads to overall analytical accuracy.