Histopathology audit schemes have concentrated on the accuracy of diagnosis or the standard of technical work. The most appropriate measure of specimen report time for histopathology was assessed. The simplest method is to calculate the mean or median number of days from receipt of specimens to issue of report, but this takes no account of clinical practice. An alternative approach is to compare the laboratory's performance with the clinicians' requirements. Clinicians were invited to complete a questionnaire specifying the reporting times they required subdivided by tissue type, clinical suspicion of malignancy, and bed occupancy of the patient. The questionnaire showed that there were distinct differences in clinicians' requirements. The turnround time for each category of specimen was calculated and expressed in three ways. The traditional method of quoting a median value showed very few differences among the categories. A comparison of the department's performance with the clinicians' requirements, using an arbitrary cut-off point of satisfying at least 80% of the clinicians' most stringent requirements or an achievement index, however, provided useful information for refining laboratory priorities.
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