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Observations from a national sample exchange program for molecular haematology testing.

Pathology 2024 Februrary 13
External quality assessment programs (EQAP) for molecular haematology generally only assess the analytical phase of laboratory testing or provide limited evaluation of post-analytical components. We incorporated comprehensive post-analytical evaluation into an existing national inter-laboratory sample exchange program for molecular haematology due to the increasing complexity of diagnostic molecular testing and interpretation. We report key findings from four years of longitudinal data using this approach. Eighteen participating laboratories enrolled in an annual reciprocal sample exchange program from 2019-2022, which covered conventional and next-generation sequencing (NGS) assays. Participants submitted results on their laboratory information system-generated reports which then underwent central review. Reports were assessed according to consensus values and relevant national and international reporting standards and guidelines. A total of 680 reports were received. Laboratories had high concordance in the analytical phase of testing, with incorrect variant detection observed in a total of six of 680 (0.9%) reports. In contrast, post-analytical concordance was much lower, with at least one discordance observed in 28.9-57.6% of all conventional reports and 33.3-100% NGS reports. The most frequent post-analytical discordances were: (1) not including key technical information on reports (total 41.9% conventional, 47.2% NGS); (2) not using standard gene and variant nomenclature (total 28.2% conventional, 25.6% NGS). NGS reports also demonstrated discrepancies in variant classification (total 20.4%) and interpretation (total 10.2%). The rate of discrepancies generally improved year-on-year. Inter-laboratory concordance for molecular haematology testing is high in the analytical phase, however opportunities exist for improvement in the post-analytical phase. Given that result interpretation is crucial for clinical decision-making and that molecular testing is a complex and evolving field, we suggest that EQAPs should comprehensively evaluate both analytical and post-analytical components of laboratory performance in order to harmonise reporting and to support the accurate interpretation of molecular haematology tests.

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