Every project requires a manager, especially those projects that are done within a lab setting dealing with test samples. These positions are called sample management. Sample management is an essential part of the process in the quality management system. When speaking in terms of quality, the work that a lab constructs is only as good as the samples that they have available to use. Labs usually have to be able to take charge when ensuring that each sample it gets meets the proper requirements needed to achieve accuracy in their test results.

Before going any further, it is important to know what a sample is. A sample is defined by ISO and CLSI as “one or more parts taken from a system and intended to provide information on the system.” Since the proper management of lab samples play a critical part in the reliability and accuracy of testing and diagnosis, the results are used to have a significant impact on the care of a patient, what the outcome may be and therapeutic decisions. Meaning that it is very important that sample management is taken seriously.

If there are any chances that testing has been inaccurate then it can greatly impact patient care and progress in the opposite direction. For example, it can affect the time and length a patient stays in a hospital as well as affecting both the hospital and lab costs. Not only does inaccuracy cost more money, but it is a waste of time by requiring more testing and fixing errors in order to get proper results and possibly putting the lab behind in supplies.

To keep this from happening, sample management has a number of components to follow which includes handling the information needed on forms, taking care of urgent requests, collecting, labeling, preserving and transporting, evaluate, process and track samples, and store, retain and dispose of what isn’t needed.

To ensure that these steps and methods are followed carefully the lab usually creates a handbook that goes over the purpose, distribution, the lab’s responsibilities and the lab logistics. More information to be included in the handbook should be contact names and phone numbers to the key personnel, the name and address of the lab, the hours of operation, a list of tests that can be ordered, detail specific information of the sample collection requirements, information on sample requirements,the expected turnaround times it should take, a detailed description of how urgent requests are taken care of.

As mentioned previously, the lab’s responsibilities are to collect the appropriate samples, even though the sample collection process is often done by another person who is not a part of the lab’s staff. The lab can provide collection information to health care personnel to ensure that the proper sample is collected at the collection site. This is also to help make sure that the proper containers are being used as well as appropriate labeling systems.

After samples have been properly collected, it is not time for labeling. Each sample must be carefully labeled with the full name of the patient, a unique number used for identification purposes, the type of test that was requested, the time and date of the collection and the initials of the person who collected the sample. If this is not done properly then there are great risks associated. Meaning that each sample should be handled as if it is very infectious. It is also key to set up a type of lab logistics team, to track the samples throughout the lab and other times samples must be transported for additional testing. To keep these things simple, it would be key to have someone appointed for certain tasks in the sample management process.

Avi Aranb