METHODS: Two generic models, biological variation and sigma-metrics, are investigated. We selected variables in the models for Hb A1c and used data of external quality assurance/proficiency testing programs to evaluate the suitability of the models to set and evaluate quality targets within and between laboratories.
RESULTS: In the biological variation model, 48% of individual laboratories and none of the 26 instrument groups met the minimum performance criterion. In the sigma-metrics model, with a total allowable error (TAE) set at 5 mmol/mol (0.46% NGSP), 77% of the individual laboratories and 12 of 26 instrument groups met the 2σ criterion.
CONCLUSIONS: The biological variation and sigma-metrics models were demonstrated to be suitable for setting and evaluating quality targets within and between laboratories. The sigma-metrics model is more flexible, as both the TAE and the risk of failure can be adjusted to the situation—for example, requirements related to diagnosis/monitoring or international authorities. With the aim of reaching (inter)national consensus on advice regarding quality targets for Hb A1c, the Task Force suggests the sigma-metrics model as the model of choice, with default values of 5 mmol/mol (0.46%) for TAE and risk levels of 2σ and 4σ for routine laboratories and laboratories performing clinical trials, respectively. These goals should serve as a starting point for discussion with international stakeholders in the field of diabetes.