Considerable attention has been focused on definition and enhancement of the analytical quality in laboratory testing over the past decades. Advances in laboratory technology and computer informatics have allowed a major sense of confidence with the analytical phase and more efforts should now be focused on extra-analytical areas of improvement, that should further strengthen the link between cost effectiveness and clinical outcome. Deduction and implementation of common reference intervals, to be possibly shared by a regional network of clinical laboratories, appear so far a crucial step to increase efficiency and harmonization. With the experience gained from External Quality Control exercises and with the consensus of several contributory laboratories, this process is underway in Italy. Quality performances resulting from widespread implementation of common reference intervals and longitudinal comparison of patient's data, will allow clinical laboratories to accomplish with a major transferability, amplifying health benefits and meeting increasing health systems demand. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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