Two columns for the price of one

June 19, 2014

I’m just back from CLMA KnowledgeLab 2014 in Las Vegas, which was energizing, inspiring, and instructive as it is every year. Thanks to all who stopped by the MLO booth in the exhibit hall for your valuable input, which will help guide the MLO team as we proceed through the 2014 editorial year and plan for 2015.  

Along with interacting with laboratorians and industry leaders, my schedule allowed me to attend two educational sessions: “Succession Planning—Preparing for the Takeover?” conducted by Anthony Kurec, MS, H(ASCP)DLM; and “Meaningful Use Stage 2 as it relates to the Lab and Implementing the Public Health Agency Interface,” conducted by Carol Crosby, MT(ASCP)SM. Both sessions were very interesting and very well attended. (That’s worth noting, considering that the Rio Hotel & Casino’s slot machines were beckoning attendees from just a few hundred feet away…)

Tony Kurec, a member of the MLO Editorial Advisory Board and a frequent “Tips from the Clinical Experts” answerer in MLO, gave a lively, often humorous, presentation that offered pragmatic advice on creating strategies and systems to enable an orderly, well planned succession of staff to leadership positions in labs—and exploded a few myths along the way. He structured his presentation around a “Six-Step Succession Plan,” consisting of 1) Commitment; 2) Build a work team; 3) Complete a position analysis; 4) Identify critical skills; 5) Determine bench strength; and 6) Follow-up metrics. One thing that I took away is that employees more-or-less “tell” lab directors whether they want to be considered for management positions; some very talented staff prefer to remain where they are. Managers should pick up the relevant cues and plan accordingly.

Carol Crosby, an independent consultant, gave a cogent and practical analysis of the origin of Meaningful Use in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the responsibilities it entails for clinical labs. Early on, she clarified the three stages of Meaningful Use: Stage 1: Data Capture and Sharing; Stage 2: Advanced Clinical Processes; and Stage 3: Improved Outcomes. She covered these topics in detail:  Meaningful Use Stage 2 (MU2); Electronic Lab Results (ELR) interface; Lab Results to Ambulatory Interface (LRI); EHR interface; Basic knowledge required for these interfaces; MU2 elements that an LIS needs to support; ELR Project Service Path; Lessons learned; and What is the Industry Saying? One thing that impressed me about Ms. Crosby’s presentation was the ease with which she navigated, and guided her audience through, the specialized terminology, particularly the daunting collection of acronyms, that her topic requires.


This issue’s lead Continuing Education article, “The current and ideal state of anatomic pathology patient safety” by Stephen Spencer Raab, MD, is deeply rooted in the science, technology, and practices of the AP lab, but it also uses specialized language that readers might normally associate with the social sciences—psychology, educational theory, etc. But Dr. Raab’s discussion of “errors of accuracy” and “errors of precision,” of “fast thinking” and “slow thinking,” of “mental maps” and “heuristics,” is urgently relevant to the topic of mistakes that are made in the AP lab or any lab, or in almost any workplace, for that matter. How we learn and how we train, how we process information and how we interpret it, are vitally important, particularly when the integrity of diagnoses and thus patient welfare are at stake. Dr. Raab’s insights are interesting in themselves, and the suggestions he makes in terms of system-level changes to decrease anatomic pathology errors are valuable and thought-provoking. I would be interested to hear what readers think about this article—or any articles published in MLO, of course.