Dale JC, Novis DA, Meier. Reference laboratory telephone service quality. Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2001 May;125(5):608-12.
OBJECTIVES: To establish the rates with which reference laboratories resolve inquiries telephoned to them from primary laboratories and to identify reference laboratory practices associated with higher rates of inquiry resolution.
DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS: For 2 months, or until 50 contacts had occurred, 545 primary laboratories participating in the College of American Pathologists Q-Probes laboratory quality improvement program prospectively documented and characterized telephone inquiries they made to a reference laboratory of their choice. Participants also cataloged their own laboratory’s demographic and practice characteristics and their reference laboratory’s customer service characteristics.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Rates with which reference laboratories resolved telephone inquiries.
RESULTS: Participants characterized 11 031 (78.7%) of 14 017 telephone inquiries as resolved by the reference laboratories. Ranked according to inquiry resolution rates, primary laboratories in the 90th percentile characterized reference laboratories as resolving 100% of their inquiries; those in the 10th percentile characterized reference laboratories as resolving only 54.2% of their inquiries. The rate of resolved inquiries was significantly higher (P =.0047) for participants using reference laboratories with 24-hour customer service than it was for participants using reference laboratories with less than 24-hour service. Most primary laboratories (80.9%) chose to monitor 1 of 11 national reference laboratories; in this subset, median rates of inquiry resolution ranged from 90.2% to 55.0% (P <.0001), despite no significant variation in other measured customer service characteristics.
CONCLUSIONS: Primary laboratories experience significant differences in the rates with which reference laboratories resolve telephone inquiries. The performance benchmark for reference laboratories is resolution of at least 90% of telephone inquiries from primary laboratory customers.