Turnaround Time (TAT): Difference in Concept for Laboratory and Clinician

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Abstract

Lab investigations are essential in patient management and qualities of the tests reports are emphasized. But there is another aspect of quality which is often overlooked and that is timeliness which is expressed as turnaround time (TAT). Mostly the laboratory services are directed at providing a rapid, reliable report at a reasonable cost. However, most laboratories put undue stress on only reliability, where as the clinician gives more stress on how soon (TAT) a report would be available to them. There is no clear definition of TAT, as to which period should be included in determining TAT for a specific test. For laboratory personnel, it would be from the time of receipt of sample in laboratory till report is generated. However, for a clinician, it would appropriate from the time of his/her requisition of a test till the report reaches him/her. The TAT would not be similar for routine tests versus in STAT/urgent tests. TAT would be different for ICU/emergency services. The causes of poor satisfaction level from lab users includes stat and routine test TAT and stat test TAT is considered by majority as the most important indicator of laboratories functioning. Hospital computerization with record of time from test request, sample collection, report generation and receipt of report by clinician would help in generating TAT. Analyzing outliers in TAT in a lab gives insight of causes delay in TAT and the areas need improvement. Laboratories in developing countries are yet to use TAT and analyze them for laboratory improvement.