Lab Matters Summer 2019 - Page 30

QUALITY SYSTEMS Iowa Visits Arizona and New Mexico in APHL’s New Quality Manager Exchange Program By Bertina Su, MPH, manager, Quality Systems In early 2019, APHL announced an opportunity for peer-to-peer learning exchanges for quality managers from member laboratories. These exchanges would provide managers with new perspectives on quality management systems, regulatory requirements, quality culture, risk management, internal audits, document control software and other issues that they confront daily in their work. Marcia Valbracht, manager of Quality Systems, and Mark Pendergast, advisor to the director and manager of Quality Systems at the State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa, took advantage of the new program. Kathryn Wangsness, Office of Laboratory Services chief and quality assurance manager, and her team hosted Valbracht at the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory, while Allison Treloar, director of the Office of Quality, Safety, Security, and Emergency Preparedness, hosted Pendergast at the New Mexico Scientific Laboratory Division. Joint Planning for Improvement Prior to her visit to Arizona, Valbracht worked with Wangsness to identify their joint goals for the exchange: “We wanted to identify similarities and differences in our quality programs—what works well, what could be improved and how the information could be incorporated into our laboratory.” The resulting agenda for the exchange visits began with a review of each laboratory’s organizational chart to understand where quality management fit within the laboratory structure and how it interacted with other programs. This discussion served as a springboard to a deeper conversation on quality manager roles and responsibilities, and the quality management program as a whole. 28 LAB MATTERS Summer 2019 Allison Treloar Kathryn Wangsness Several effective quality practices were identified. For example, standardized practices, such as shift workers following the same procedure to ensure that all samples are tested correctly, are critical to meet accreditation requirements. Such practices must be communicated clearly and frequently, and be combined with daily section meetings to give staff an opportunity to address problems immediately. Monthly section quality reports and checklists also help managers to determine actions needed to meet quality assurance requirements. The APHL Quality Assurance Community, membership in public health quality associations and online research on laboratory quality topics also can provide managers with helpful tips to strengthen quality programs. Next Steps to Advance Quality Programs Following their visits to Arizona and New Mexico, Valbracht and Pendergast plan to meet with Iowa laboratory management to explore how to improve the quality culture in the organization by engaging management in quality training for staff and increasing bench staff involvement in discussions of quality programs. Overall, they agreed, public health laboratories require additional funding for quality management staff, better defined roles and responsibilities for quality programs, Marcia Valbracht Mark Pendergast training in the rules and regulations of different accrediting bodies, and better document control practices and software. Pendergast also suggested that APHL could help support laboratory quality programs: “Perhaps the APHL annual meeting could be used as a venue to train quality managers. APHL could also consider developing targeted training for quality managers and laboratory directors on their roles and responsibilities as they relate to quality, as well as how to build and/or maintain a culture of quality. A discussion on standardizing risk assessments, specifically the identification, analysis, evaluation and treatment, would also be helpful.” APHL looks forward to bringing these ideas to the Laboratory Systems and Standards Committee this fall to discuss trainings and resources that could be developed to meet these needs. Public health laboratories that have an interest in participating in the new Quality Manager Exchange Program may contact Tina Su, bertina.su@aphl.org. n PublicHealthLabs @APHL APHL.org