Virtual proficiency testing for external quality assurance of medical laboratories

ParasiteWeb is a web platform for performing virtual EQA (External Quality Assessment) and IQC (Internal Quality Control) for the microscopic detection of parasites in clinical samples.

Quality assurance of medical laboratories is essential to ensure reliable analytical services. High-quality laboratory services are a prerequisite for avoiding misdiagnosis and treatment errors.
The performance of independent, external laboratory tests, in the form of so-called proficiency tests, means an enormous logistical effort for the proficiency test providers. This concerns in particular the sample preparation for the participating laboratories and the procurement of adequate sample material for microscopic parasite detection. Currently, hundreds of slides have to be prepared and shipped for one proficiency test. The laboratories have to finance this high effort accordingly.

How can external quality assurance be automated and the time and financial effort kept to a minimum?

One answer is provided by our web-based training platform ParasiteWeb for external and internal quality assurance in microscopic parasitology.

 

Unique digital sample collection of parasites in blood and stool

Our partner, the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM), owns a unique sample collection of parasites in clinical materials. We digitized these with state-of-the-art scanners at high resolution and with Z-stacks for interactive focusing.

BNITM experts also annotate all samples by tagging and classifying each parasite. More than 180 samples have already been digitized in this way (as of the end of 2021).

Analysis quality on the test bench: ParasiteWeb supports performance assessment

Advantages for users

  • Direct personal performance feedback incl. reference comparison with expert annotations
  • Extensive range of preparations (standard and special pathogens)
  • Better comparability of laboratory performance
  • Also suitable for internal quality control and staff training

Advantages for providers of proficiency testing / external quality control

  • Easy logistic handling, as no samples have to be shipped (no loss and no damage)
  • Lower costs due to less effort in sample preparation and shipping
  • Higher scalability; extended international group of participants possible without problems
  • No unstable samples
  • Samples can be processed simultaneously by many laboratories and/or staff members of one laboratory without any loss of quality

 

ParasiteWeb – GUI

External quality assurance via web browser and direct feedback

Quality assurance with ParasiteWeb

ParasiteWeb: Web-based training platform for external quality assurance in microscopic parasitology

  • Online delivery of virtual whole slide scans via our website
  • Blood slides with 3-level scans consisting of overview image, medium magnification area (10x objective) and high resolution area (63x oil objective) with seamless zooming
  • Access via personalized credentials
  • Presentation of a short case description

Benefits for participants

  • Participants identify and classify parasites in blood or stool samples using the virtual slides
  • Annotation of individual parasites allows later comparison with expert annotations (learning effect)
  • Existence of several z-levels allows interactive focusing by mouse wheel for selected samples (e.g. thick drop)
  • Direct feedback and reference comparison of annotated samples
  • Peer comparison with other participants
  • Interlaboratory learning curve

Our training platform for external quality assurance has already been successfully used and tested in a pilot study with over 80 accredited medical laboratories. The results were comparable to those of previous non-virtual proficiency testing. Thus, the virtual implementation offers the participants the same results, but at the same time a clear added value!

 

Funding and partners

The ParasiteWeb project is funded by the Leibniz Association.

 

BNITM Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine

  • Overall project leader: Prof. Dr. Egbert Tannich
  • Provision of medical samples on parasites in blood and stool samples
  • Annotation of the samples
  • Medical support

Fraunhofer IIS

  • Project leader: Dr. Michaela Benz
  • Digitization of the samples into a Whole Slide Image (WSI)
  • Development of the web platform
  • Technical support
     

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