Getting back on track with lab accreditation

May 18, 2022

As laboratorians, the priorities in our facilities depend on systems that focus on quality management. This would allow us to assist in the delivery of accurate diagnostics to our physicians that is integral to their ability to assist patients in their care.

Our ability to follow consistent standards and document our processes will ultimately result in patient safety, including our own lab personnel safety. As part of the process, there are a number of organizations who grade our ability to follow guidelines and standards by accrediting our actions within our labs.

According to Wikipedia – “Accreditation is the independent, third-party evaluation of a conformity assessment body (such as certification body, inspection body or laboratory) against recognized standards, conveying formal demonstration of its impartiality and competence to carry out specific conformity assessment tasks (such as certification, inspection and testing).”

The accreditation process does improve the ability to deliver accurate and rapid diagnostics and improves our efficiency resulting in error reduction. The process validates what we do and proves that we have a system of standard procedures that aims to improve quality and patient safety.

I recently attended an interesting session on lab accreditation that highlighted a number of areas in which clinical labs were struggling to keep up with accrediting standards and guidelines. The session was part of at the Executive War College in New Orleans in April. The presenters were from The Joint Commission, College of American Pathologists, COLA, and A2LA. The discussion reviewed common deficiencies found during accreditation surveys and areas that are overlooked when making your lab assessment ready.

As most would suspect, many of the problem areas they listed could be related to staffing levels and the time needed to ensure that these areas are covered consistently.

Top deficiencies mentioned by all four agencies included:

• Personnel competency assessments

• Procedure manuals

• Proficiency testing

• Equipment inspections and maintenance records

• Surveillance of patient results and records

• Evaluations of same test results performed with different instruments or at different locations

 • Timely reporting of critical results of tests and diagnostic procedures

 • Personnel or lab director not fulling responsibilities of their position

Accreditation should be embraced by our laboratory professionals as a welcome process that proves we have the ability and dedication to save lives – and we do every day!

I welcome your comments, questions and opinions – please send them to me at [email protected]

Kristine Russell