Our whole focus at COLA is to help labs achieve their goals by weaving education throughout all of our accreditation services.
Douglas A. Beigel
Chief Executive Officer
Chief Operating Officer 1987-2001
MA, Loyola College-Baltimore
MBA, Merrick School of Business, University of Baltimore
Family, music, digital photography,
and fly fishing.
Change brings challenges. Since the passage of the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988, the laboratory industry has been extremely focused on quality issues. There have also been tremendous changes in such areas as instrumentation, laboratory consolidation, and in the types of personnel who handle testing; more nurses, for example, are performing tests than ever before. There also is a continuing shift toward waived testing. COLA continually evolves its accreditation services to adapt to these and other changes.
People and processes. The growth in waived testing is also putting pressure on laboratories to make sure they have competent individuals performing those tests. Government studies show that waived sites often do not meet minimal requirements, and many people are not aware of recommended practices to ensure quality testing. More education is needed for waived-site personnel about the importance of following manufacturers' instructions, adhering to expiration dates, performing quality-control testing, and proper documentation and recordkeeping.
Redesign for results. Just as we hold our laboratory clients accountable to complying with processes that yield quality patient results, we apply that same quality commitment to COLA's processes. That led us to re-engineer our systems-management approach and create a new leadership model. One of our greatest success stories was the redesign of our legacy IT systems so we could create a new paperless, real-time accreditation program — which our customers had been telling us they wanted for some time.
Quest for quality. Each step in the accreditation process is an opportunity to gather the information a lab requires to improve quality. We offer an extensive library of tools, resources, and courses — many available online — including our new electronic portal, COLAcentral. Our research shows that labs are highly focused on complying with CMS requirements concerning staff credentials, involving their lab director in daily operations, and showing that their pre- and post-analytic processes meet federal and state requirements. Probably the three biggest assets a laboratory needs to meet these goals is a laboratory director who is highly involved with lab operations; an experienced medical technologist or technician supervising the testing staff; and a constant focus on competency assessment and training.
Training the team. Our whole focus at COLA is to help labs achieve their goals by weaving education throughout all of our accreditation services. The current lab-personnel shortage presents a real challenge in the sense that laboratories must be extra vigilant about ensuring that new personnel — especially young and inexperienced staff — are properly trained in terms of these quality standards. We provide labs with a variety of tools to ensure each member of the lab staff has every opportunity to enhance his knowledge and skills in order to achieve these goals.
Prospective lab professionals. The critical message we should get across to young people who are considering the field is that the laboratory industry offers incredibly diverse career opportunities. Whether you want to work in a crime lab or a doctor's office, conduct research or teach, the possibilities are endless. Lab professionals everywhere should reach out to local middle schools with programs to educate kids about the laboratory profession. The “Laboratorians: Saving Lives One Test at a Time” campaign (www.COLA.org/20th) offers those interested in entering the field more information about education, certification and licensing requirements, job opportunities, and more.