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Using Root Cause Analysis and Form Redesign to Reduce Incorrect Ordering of HIV Tests

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Background: Advances in molecular biology and changes in microbial nomenclature may subject diagnostic microbiology to errors. A patient diagnosed with Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia and then with AIDS had received a negative “AIDS test”—“negative for antibodies to HTLV 1 and 2.” The test requisition showed that the physician had requested HTLV-I/II testing but not an HIV-1/2 test. A root cause analysis was performed to determine if the erroneous testing represented a systemic problem. A study was conducted to identify and address such testing errors.

Methods: For the 1,952 HTLV-I/II test requests in a 17month period in the Southern Alberta region, a random representative sample of 555 requests for HTLV-I/II testing were evaluated for appropriateness. Physicians ordering “inappropriate” tests were surveyed to determine root causes, and the HTLV-I/II check box was subsequently removed from the requisition.

Results: Some 318 (94%) of the 340 clinically directed HTLV tests were likely or definitely inappropriate—that is, only an HIV-1/2 test was required. At least 81% (127/156) of the 8% (156/1,948) of the HTLV-I/II tests ordered without an HIV-1/2 test concurrently were ordered inappropriately. In the telephone survey, all 69 physicians suspected to have incorrectly ordered HTLV-I/II tests reported erroneously requesting HTLV for HIV. A root cause analysis identified confusing viral nomenclature, diagnostic testing menu, and form design as contributing factors. A requisition recall and redesign has reduced erroneous laboratory testing.

Conclusions: A high proportion of HTLV-I/II tests were ordered erroneously and confused with HIV-1/2. Careful attention to routine test menus and form design, including the exclusion of rare and confusing pathogens, reduces risk of error for practicing physicians.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2012

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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