A reference range defines the thresholds for which clinicians consider a laboratory test result “normal.” But a normal test result does not always verify health, and an abnormal result does not necessarily confirm a patient is ill. These ranges can vary widely due to confounding factors, such as differences in sex, age, location/environmental factors and specific conditions such as pregnancy or renal impairment. Test method variations apply as well, all of which can potentially impact what’s considered normal for an individual patient’s health status. Real-world data can and should be used to reevaluate and fi ne tune the reference ranges when appropriate.
An increasing number of healthcare leaders are revisiting the reference ranges used in their institutions for specific conditions, recognizing opportunities to improve diagnostic accuracy and clinical outcomes. A missed diagnosis could lead to an acute event or prolonged deterioration in a patient’s health. But fine-tuning the reference ranges for specific patient populations can mitigate this risk for both the patient and the healthcare organization. It’s also an opportunity to reduce potential overdiagnosis and avoid unnecessary procedures, medications and hospital stays, as patients may not need further evaluations. This can lead to organizations experiencing significant clinical and financial benefits when diagnostic tools have been refined to ensure that the right patients are diagnosed at the right time.
In this article, we profile three care teams—two in Spain and one in India— that received global recognition from the UNIVANTS of Healthcare ExcellenceTM award program. The recognition highlights their success in improving patient care after investigating and applying refined reference ranges across different laboratory tests within their organizations. Their integrated clinical care initiatives altered existing reference thresholds to better account for confounding factors. The initiatives were also implemented in a collaborative manner that positively impacted all stakeholders: patients, clinicians, payers and entire health systems.