Q&A: Hamilton Regional Laboratory Medicine Program chemistry test results
Oct. 4, 2012
Hamilton Regional Laboratory Medicine Program chemistry test results
What is the issue?
Some of the results from chemistry tests conducted in our labs at Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton were incorrect. Although a low rate of variations is not uncommon in laboratories, we were concerned that our rate of variation was higher than expected.
What tests are affected?
These are a broad range of chemistry tests used for the day-to-day management of a variety of issues. They are one among many factors doctors and clinicians use to determine patient care. Often they are repeated.
The tests do not include those taken to diagnose cancers, infections, genetic or inherited disorders. They are not used for pathology, microbiology or hematology.
What patients are affected?
These are tests only done for:
• Inpatients at our hospitals (Hamilton General, Juravinski Hospital, McMaster University Medical Centre, McMaster Children’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton Charlton and West 5th campus);
• Patients who are seen in our hospital outpatient clinics (see list above for hospitals);
• Patients at the urgent care centres (St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton King Campus and Main Street West Urgent Care Centre);
Test results from community-based clinics are not affected.
When were the tests taken?
Tests potentially affected are for about the past six months.
How do I know if my test results were affected?
There is no way of identifying which test results were affected as samples are discarded after the initial test, and a retest of the same sample would be required to review. Please note that in the vast majority of cases most of the tests results were accurate, and that, in many cases physicians regularly ask to repeat tests to ensure accuracy if a test appears inaccurate to them.
Should patients be worried?
Medical experts have reviewed the issue in relation to potential impact on patients and have concluded the risk to patients is low. All physicians who order tests have been informed of this issue and asked to promptly report any patient concerns to the hospitals. Retests can be done if necessary. To date our physicians have not advised us of any concerns regarding patient care.
What do I do?
Keep in mind these test results are not used for diagnosis and are only one test used by doctors to determine patient care. If you have a concern, it is best to talk to your family physician.
What is being done to ensure test results are accurate?
Patient care and safety are our top priority. We have been in the process of replacing our chemistry testing systems for the last 18 months, and, the installation is scheduled to be completed at the end of November. In the interim we are conducting a variety of interventions, including additional quality control and preventive maintenance procedures. We are confident that these changes will ensure the highest quality standards and test result accuracy possible.