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Laboratory proficiency testing program earns federal stamp of approval.

A medical laboratory proficiency testing (PT) program sponsored by the American Society of Internal Medicine (ASIM) has earned the approval of the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA). HCFA's approval means laboratories that successfully participate in ASIM's Medical Laboratory Evaluation (MLE) program will be recognized as meeting the PT requirements mandated by the 1988 Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA).

MLE director Carol Gorove says CLIA's PT requirements apply to all moderate- and high-complexity laboratories - regardless of whether they are federally or State certified, or privately accredited by programs such as the Commission on Office Laboratory Accreditation (COLA). Gorove says that means the vast majority of physician office laboratories must enroll in a federally approved PT program, such as MLE.

By law, the laboratory personnel who normally perform patient testing must also perform PT. Although laboratories don't have to enroll in PT until 1994, Gorove says they should enroll now. "Labs that wait until the last minute are at a disadvantage because of the learning curve involved in PT. I'd recommend that lab personnel sign up (for a PT program) as soon as possible to get a better sense of what it takes to successfully participate in proficiency testing."

At least three times a year, laboratories enrolled in MLE receive scheduled shipments of specimens of unknown value for testing. After a laboratory performs the tests and returns its results to MLE, the program sends an evaluation report to the laboratory. The report compares the individual laboratory's performance with that of other laboratories performing the same procedures using identical or similar methods.

Gorove says MLE, which was started in 1974, has won high marks from physicians. "MLE was created by physicians for physicians. I think our doctors like the fact that the program educates them without being pejorative or punitive. They know that MLE's primary objective is to help them improve the accuracy of their lab testing."

Physicians participating in MLE receive a simple-to-use manual and descriptions of the guidelines used for evaluation. A toll-free hotline is available so physicians can speak with medical technologists who can provide assistance or answer any questions about the program. Participating physicians also receive a regular newsletter with articles on current issues and regulations affecting laboratories.

Besides winning the approval of HCFA, MLE is also recognized by the majority of States that regulate physician office laboratories. MLE is one of seven PT programs approved by COLA for laboratories that seek accreditation through its program.
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Title Annotation:Health Care Financing Administration
Publication:Health Care Financing Review
Date:Dec 22, 1992
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