Objective: Total quality management, which basically involves pre-analytical, analytical, and postanalytical phases, is relatively more difficult in cytopathology due to descriptive reports and subjective variability. The pre-analytical phase of total quality management constitutes a major burden of errors in the laboratory and it has not been widely studied in cytopathology except in cervical Pap smears. The present study was therefore conducted to study the pre-analytical phase over 5 years from April 2013 until May 2018 at an ISO 15189: 2012-certified cytopathology laboratory, in a resource-limited setting. It was also intended to study the level of satisfaction of the patients and the training of the professionals provided in the cytology lab so as to improve and maintain high quality standards. Methods: The study included all the documents relating to the quality program used in the last 5 years in a medical institute situated in the north sub-Himalayan region of India. All the data were recorded and analysed for pre-analytical analysis of the total quality management system. Results: In total, 20,130 samples were received for cytological investigation. The total number of errors which were detected in the cytopathology lab were 1,430, constituting 7.1% of the total investigations done. The pre-analytical phase errors comprised 57% of the total errors (815/1,430), analytical errors constituted 11% (157/1,430), while postanalytical errors represented 32% (458/1,430). Incompletely filled requisition forms constituted the most common pre-analytical error (38%). There was a gradual decrease in the errors with time, but with a sudden increase between January to June 2015 due to new technicians joining during that period. Conclusion: Pre-analytical quality management is an essential component for maintaining the quality and reducing the errors in the cytopathology lab. Documentation, continuous training, and maintenance of internal and external quality control with quality charts are the key for successful quality management. The identification of non-conformance with root-cause analysis and provision of scope for continuous improvement is vital for quality improvement in the lab. Patient satisfaction is an important aspect of quality in the lab, which should be combined with the satisfaction of the personnel working in the lab.

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