External Quality Assessment

What is EQA?

"A system of objectively assessing the laboratory performance by an outside agency. EQA is a system whereby a set of reagents and techniques are assessed by an external source and the results of the testing laboratory are compared with those of an approved reference laboratory The main objective of external quality assessment is to establish inter-laboratory compatibility" (WHO 1981)

"External Quality Assessment" (EQA) and "Proficiency testing" (PT) are often used interchangeably. The difference between EQA and PT is not always clear. EQA is more used in Europe and PT in the US. EQA is more focused on education and continuous improvement; PT is focused on satisfactory performances and authorization.

The main objective of EQA is not to bring about day-to-day consistency, but to establish inter-laboratory compatibility. Typical for EQA is that a large number of laboratories are provided with the same material. They are required to test the material with routine procedures and should return results to a coordinating centre, independent of the participating laboratories. The test results are compared to determine the accuracy of the individual laboratory. Important in genetics EQA, is the assessment of quality and completeness of a laboratory's written interpretation of a genetic test result, within the context of the clinical indication and family history. Comprehensible interpretation of results by laboratories is critical to ensure that the receiver (physician, geneticist, patient …) understands the implications. In addition, unequivocal use of nomenclature to describe sequence variants in laboratory reports is important to avoid misunderstanding among health care providers and to avoid incorrect testing or interpretation for family members. Laboratories receive at the end of the EQA cycle an extensive evaluation of their performance, in comparison to the performance of other laboratories (anonymous). The emphasis of EQA is not to punish laboratories, but to educate and to improve laboratory performance.


Search for an EQA scheme

Find information about EQA schemes across Europe here.

Informational leaflet on EQA

Last changed: 2012-10-09

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