Internal quality control: Moving average algorithms outperform Westgard rules

Daren Kiat How Poh, Chun Yee Lim, Rui Zhen Tan, Corey Markus, Tze Ping Loh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Internal quality control (IQC) is traditionally interpreted against predefined control limits using multi-rules or ‘Westgard rules’. These include the commonly used 1:3s and 2:2s rules. Either individually or in combination, these rules have limited sensitivity for detection of systematic errors. In this proof-of-concept study, we directly compare the performance of three moving average algorithms with Westgard rules for detection of systematic error. Methods: In this simulation study, ‘error-free’ IQC data (control case) was generated. Westgard rules (1:3s and 2:2s) and three moving average algorithms (simple moving average (SMA), weighted moving average (WMA), exponentially weighted moving average (EWMA); all using ±3SD as control limits) were applied to examine the false positive rates. Following this, systematic errors were introduced to the baseline IQC data to evaluate the probability of error detection and average number of episodes for error detection (ANEed). Results: From the power function graphs, in comparison to Westgard rules, all three moving average algorithms showed better probability of error detection. Additionally, they also had lower ANEed compared to Westgard rules. False positive rates were comparable between the moving average algorithms and Westgard rules (all <0.5%). The performance of the SMA algorithm was comparable to the weighted algorithms forms (i.e. WMA and EWMA). Conclusion: Application of an SMA algorithm on IQC data improves systematic error detection compared to Westgard rules. Application of SMA algorithms can simplify laboratories IQC strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-69
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Biochemistry
Early online date14 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Laboratory informatics
  • Moving average
  • Quality assurance
  • Quality control
  • Quality management


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