Performance evaluation for proficiency testing with a limited number of participants
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- Wong, S. Accred Qual Assur (2011) 16: 539. doi:10.1007/s00769-011-0816-8
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Proficiency testing (PT) is an essential tool for laboratories to assess their competency. Also, participation in PT has become one of the mandatory requirements for laboratory to seek accreditation according to ISO/IEC 17025. For this reason, the effectiveness of performance evaluation by PT scheme is of great concern for the participants and for accreditation bodies as well. In practice, owing to unavailability of other appropriate alternatives, PT scheme providers may have to choose using consensus values to evaluate the performance of participants. However, such consensus values approach was not recommended by relevant international guidelines for PT schemes with limited number of participants. With the use of Monte Carlo simulation technique, this study attempted to investigate the effectiveness of using consensus values for performance evaluation in PT schemes with limited number of participants. The simulation process was schemed according to the statistical model provided by ISO 5725-1 for laboratory measurement results, which covered components like method bias, laboratory bias, and measurement precision. The effectiveness of the consensus value approach was expressed as the percentage of participants in a simulation run could get the same evaluation result, either satisfactory or unsatisfactory, against the “true value.” The findings indicated that the number of participants, choice of consensus values, mass fraction of analyte, method bias, laboratory bias, and measurement repeatability of participating laboratories would all affect the effectiveness of the consensus value approach but at different extent. However, under certain circumstances, use of consensus value could still be considered as an acceptable approach for performance evaluation even the number of participants was limited. Some of the findings were further verified using real data from PT schemes where appropriate certified reference materials or reliable reference values were available.