Welcome to CRI®’s Individualized Quality Control Plan (IQCP) Program. For healthcare professionals with key roles in providing effective and quality-driven laboratory medicine, the debate over laboratory procedures for Quality Control (QC) is familiar. Questions often include: How is QC defined? What guidelines should be followed for when and how QC should be performed? Do the physician’s office laboratory and hospital laboratory have similar QC requirements?
Whether performing QC in the physician’s office laboratory or in an Integrated Healthcare Network’s Core laboratory, effective QC offers patients and healthcare providers reassurance that test results obtained on patient specimens are accurate. With continual technology advances in laboratory diagnostics, not only have laboratory QC procedures evolved, so has the approach laboratorians take in developing an overall QC Plan. With the 2004 adoption by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) of Equivalent Quality Control (EQC) as an alternative form of QC, laboratories were able to decrease the frequency of testing external controls after performing a successful standardized qualifying study. However, not all tests were eligible for Equivalent Quality Control (EQC).
Even though many labs implemented EQC without difficulty, there were a number of potential errors which could lead to inaccurate results that were not detected by the test system’s internal controls or by the EQC qualifying studies. Consequently, regulators and healthcare professionals began considering potential errors that may not have been addressed in the EQC process. As a result, CMS initiated the development of a new alternative QC policy, known as “Individualized Quality Control Plan” (IQCP). The goal: to allow healthcare professionals to identify, assess and mitigate potential errors that could occur in their laboratories, during all phases of specimen testing, in order to provide the most effective QC for the test.
The Education and Transition period for this new alternative QC policy began January 1, 2014, so now is the time to learn about this new QC option. On January 1, 2016, the Education and Transition period ended, and EQC is no longer an acceptable QC option.