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Quicker QC on a small microcomputer.

Quicker QC on a small microcomputer

In my travels with the military as a medical laboratory specialist, I have had the opportunity to visit many small, tightly budgeted civilian labs. These labs, I find, are making increasing use of modest microcomputer systems from companies like Atari, Texas Instruments, and Commodore. The systems are usually purchased by one or more staff members.

Most of the quality control programs are owner-written and seem inadequate. Those that are purchased, on the other hand, seem too powerful and complicated for their laboratories' needs.

I have developed a quality control management program, in Commodore Basic, that simplifies computerized QC activities. Among its features:

Preprogrammed sequence of routines. Most programs require the operator to keep addressing either the main menu or submenus in order to indicate what will be worked on next. Once the operator becomes accustomed to the program, it can be very annoying to have to shuttle between routines and menus. The answer is a program feature that lets you instruct the computer to go directly from one area to another.

For example, the computer might be told that the desired sequence is to enter quality control data; view the computer-calculated mean, standard deviation, and coefficient of variation; save those statistics; produce a Levey-Jennings chart; go back to the chart if you want to change values on it; and repeat the procedure for the next batch of QC data. Consider the first step: As each QC result is entered, the computer asks whether the operator wants to continue in that routine. A no to that question, when data entry is completed, prompts the computer to switch to the next routine, display of statistics.

Rapid entry format. As on a typewriter, the number keys are in a long line across the top of the microcomputer keyboard. To speed up entry of quality control data, the program creates a more convenient numerical keypad: It transforms 10 letter and punctuation keys into the digits 0 to 9. Clustered in three descending rows, these keys can be manipulated with one hand while the operator uses the other hand to work down the column of written QC results.

At the outset, the operator tells the computer how many digits each entry will have and where the decimal point goes. Then, every time a value is entered, the computer automatically puts in the decimal point and moves to the next line for a new entry.

Recalculation of statistics. It is common QC practice to eliminate values outside the mean 3 SD and recalculate the mean and standard deviation. The computer automatically does all of this.

Easy storage and retrieval of data. Some systems use large arrays or tables of information, which often take a considerable amount of time to load and store. Instead of setting up an array of quality control statistics (say, one year's worth of glucose data), I establish a separate monthly QC file for each type of test. This rapidly gives me the information I want--my main concern is data for the current month and a few months back.

Variety of reports. The program provides a screen dump, or printout of whatever is displayed on the monitor's screen, including graphs. I generate reports on either 40- or 80-column printers (40 or 80 characters wide). Since my Commodore 64 screen is only 40 columns wide, transferring displayed material to an 80-column sheet of paper leaves ample room for handwritten notations or explanations alongside the printout.

Some of the reports I issue are monthly QC statistics, comparative data for a four-month period, Levey-Jennings charts (either blank, as forms to be filled in by hand on a daily basis, or graphs completed each month by the computer), and monthly range reports that give the - 2 SD value, the mean value, and the

2 SD value for each type of test, along with the control's lot number.

I will copy the program for any interested reader who sends a Commodore formatted disk and a stamped, self-addressed mailer to me at my home address, 3609 A Rhineland Drive, Fort Irwin, Calif. 92310.
COPYRIGHT 1986 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:quality control
Author:Otto, Christopher L.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Nov 1, 1986
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