COLA, Columbia, Md, a national laboratory accreditor and advocate for quality in laboratory medicine and patient care, has endorsed the findings of a recent study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) on patient harms caused by diagnostic error. The accreditor also offered a comprehensive set of recommendations for enhancing the role of the laboratory to help to achieve the study’s goals for reducing errors and improving diagnosis.

The IOM study, Improving Diagnosis in Healthcare, asserts that “diagnostic errors—inaccurate or delayed diagnoses—persist throughout all settings of care and continue to harm an unacceptable number of patients.” In its position statement, COLA says it strongly supports the report’s calls for more effective teamwork in the diagnostic process, including laboratory professionals, and increased research into adverse patient outcomes as a result of diagnostic errors.


Douglas Beigel, COLA.

“While the causes of diagnostic errors can stem from a variety of circumstances, the effects are the same. These errors can leave lasting impacts both physically and emotionally; sometimes they can even be fatal,” says Douglas Beigel, COLA CEO. “As key players in the healthcare diagnostic process, it is essential that laboratories recognize their role in this process and engage with all members of the healthcare team with the ultimate goal of improving patient outcomes.”

Beigel offered a series of recommendations for how laboratories can help achieve the study’s goals for reducing diagnostic error. They include:

  1. Collaboration. Laboratorians can embrace teamwork and collaboration among all healthcare professionals by working with clinicians to develop appropriate protocols for not only ordering but also providing interpretation of the test results.
  2. Training. Increased education and training on laboratory quality should be provided to allied health professionals and all individuals performing any component of laboratory testing, regardless of the complexity of the testing.
  3. Transparency. Laboratorians and healthcare professionals everywhere should share their stories to encourage a new culture of transparency in reporting of diagnostic and laboratory errors.
  4. Research. All professionals should urge colleagues in government and the broader healthcare system to further research the relationship between diagnostic and laboratory (particularly waived testing) errors and patient outcomes.

COLA is an independent, non-profit accreditor whose education program and standards enable clinical laboratories and staff to meet requirements of the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) and other regulatory requirements. The organization accredits nearly 7,500 medical laboratories and provides the clinical laboratory with a program of education, consultation, and accreditation. For further information, visit COLA.


  1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Improving diagnosis in healthcare. Balogh EP, Miller BT, Ball JR, eds. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2015.