Thursday, August 09, 2007

Define and Refine Your Processes

I just had a lab inspection by COLA, the accreditation agency for my in-office andrology lab. The goal of COLA, among several goals, is to educate lab directors, this case me, in how to run a lab and how to develop operational processes that can enable the lab to function efficiently and error free. A laboratory, like a medical office, is really a set of processes designed to achieve a goal, such as the safe delivery of health care. In the case of a clinical lab, the goal is to obtain and report clinical lab results in an accurate and timely manner so that physicians and patients can act accordingly. These processes are all connected and interact and affect all other processes farther down the chain. Thus, an error in one seemingly minor process can result in disastrous outcomes for the lab and the patient. COLA teaches us how to put systems in place that can help to avoid these errors.

As a result of my own lab inspection, I have been able to re-think operational systems for not only my lab, but for my general office as well, and since the inspection, I have been busy defining and refining these systems on paper for the goal of achieving COLA accreditation and also, to make my urology office function better, more efficiently, and with fewer errors. Here are a few processes I have defined that occur daily in my office and lab.
  • Data Entry Procedures
  • Patient Verification Processes
  • Patient Entrance and Exit Processes
  • Specimen Cup Labeling Systems
  • Test Reporting Systems
  • Test Result Tracking Procedures
  • Test Ordering Procedures
  • Specimen Collection Procedures
  • Back-up and Data Recovery Systems
  • Instrument Sterilization Processes
  • Error Reporting Procedures
  • Quality Assurance Processes
  • Quality Control Processes
And many more. In fact, as a requirement for COLA accreditation and for CLIA itself, all of these processes must not only be defined, they must be in book/manual format, in the lab, ready for inspection.

Thanks, the IU.