Errors in Diagnosis Are The Most Common And Dangerous Medical Mistakes

Recent reviews of claims for compensation for malpractices by health practitioners show that  diagnostic errors are the most common, most costly and most dangerous medical mistakes both for inpatients and outpatients. Failure to order the appropriate laboratory tests and the application of test results are major contributors to diagnostic errors together with quality problems with test performances.

This highlights the need to improve the quality of medical laboratory services which can be achieved by accreditation programmes  to decrease the risk of errors and improve patients’ safety.

Accreditation verifies the adherence by the laboratories to established quality and competence standards needed for accurate and reliable testing combined with staff safety.

In the developed world accreditation is common practice for medical laboratories, but this is not the case where there are only limited resources. A study of sub-saharan  African countries showed that 37 out of 49 had no clinical laboratories accredited to internationally recognized quality standards.

Kenya was listed as having eight accredited laboratories including the one at the Aga Khan Hospital. In 2011, the Aga Khan University Hospital became the first to achieve international accreditation in sub-saharan Africa outside South Africa through the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS). This comes under the mutual recognition arrangement of the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and gives the Hospital’s laboratory international recognition.

This demonstrates that the tests carried out in the laboratory are undertaken by competent staff, using qualified equipment, validated methods, quality supplies and in a controlled environment. The tests are right – first time and every time. The measures put in place by implementing accreditation standards and requirements increase confidence that results generated by the hospital’s laboratory are comparable to results generated in other accredited laboratories and the chances of getting wrong results are remote.

The Aga Khan University Hospital participates in external quality assessment and uses primary standards to calibrate equipment which ensures that results are traceable to national and international standards. There is an established quality management system which has reduced procedural errors by preventing, ensuring timely detection and action on errors.


The accreditation requirement of an effective continuous medical education program helps the laboratory staff keep up-to-date with global professional development and stay on the cutting edge of technology developments in their field. Regular accreditation assessments enhance staff discipline and a sense of professionalism which improves performance.


Since becoming an SANAS accredited laboratory, the Kenya Medical Laboratory Technologist and Technician Board (KMLTTB) as a training and reference laboratory to validate new testing equipment and critical supplies prior to being used in Kenya.


The information generated by AKUH, N laboratory is used by the government and regulators to make decisions related to protecting the health and welfare of consumers and the public, protecting the environment, developing new regulations, national policy documents and requirements. The information is also important in assessing compliance with regulatory and legal requirements.

Dr. Edwin Kibet is Administrator, Department of Pathology, Aga Khan University Hospital.  Email

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