Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Reflecting on Culture of Quality

There is no doubt that there is a construct which we can call the "culture of quality".  Many have written on the subject.  Some have defined it.  You can sense it in its absence, and you can augment it in its presence.  
But the challenge is creating it.
In my proficiency testing program (Clinical Microbiology Proficiency Testing or CMPT) we are a small group with a core of 5 and a half, and an extended family of another 18 of committee members and our sister  program.  One can see, especially within the core, that the culture perpetuates Quality Management and Quality Management perpetuates the culture.  OFIs, Quality Manual, Document Control,  internal and external assessments are so much part of the structure, it would be near impossible to revert back to our pre-2004 situation.
But growing that culture in a larger structure such as a medical laboratory, or a corporation is a bigger challenge, I think.  Bigger, but I expect (and trust) not impossible.  We will need access to the bigger core network.

I think there is a place here for creative use of "social networking" programs.  Clearly a place for more imagination and creativity than money.
More later.

You can visit CMPT at

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Doing our share to make laboratories better

Today is a good day because we have signed off another 20 certificates for people taking our UBC Certificate Course in Laboratory Quality Management.  This course has now been running for 7 years and we have certified about 155 people to become Medical Laboratory Quality Managers.
Our graduates are working across Canada, Africa, China, Saudi Arabia, the US, Central America, South America, and in the Caribbean.  Almost all have active positions as laboratory quality managers in medical laboratories.  (Two are working in research laboratories, and one is in a veterinary laboratory).

The course is an on-line 20 week course with group discussion, small group discussion, lots of assignments, and quizzes and a final exam, but we have a drop-out rate of less that 5%, and a success rate of over 90%.  It is fun, interesting and meaningful to provide and teach the course, and a really big deal to run into certificants at meetings and conferences across Canada and internationally.

The course has changed over the years, although the core documents remain ISO9001 and ISO15189 and Risk Management, and Root Cause, but now include relevant issues like Cost of Poor Quality, Culture of Quality, and implementation of Quality Management.

I know there are other courses that are provided to address the specific field for medical laboratory quality managers, and I am sure some, probably most, are as interesting as ours.  Would be interesting in hearing sometime from others.  Perhaps even have the opportunity to have an education forum.

But in the mean time, we are starting the process of review and revision for our 2011 version that starts in January.

 For more information you can visit


Thursday, June 24, 2010

A sad sad story

I had a conversation today with a laboratory director in a newly accredited laboratory who was grousing about their new quality management problem.  Seems the new program is costing a fortune because they keep finding new problems that have to be fixed.

But if they weren't fixed, wouldn't they still be costing the laboratory time, effort, energy and money?

No.  Because if we didn't know they were there, we wouldn't have to deal with them. 

If it weren't so sad, it would be tragic.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Getting Started

Most Medical Laboratories are stuck in a 1980’s mindset, quality is something that accreditation bodies push to keep themselves busy and important. Or, quality is Lean/Six Sigma, and that means consultant and a money drain. Wrong on both accounts.

The approach to Quality comes in many guises: ISO9000, or ISO17025, or ISO15189, or Lean, or Six Sigma, or PDSA, or Malcolm Baldrige, but it all comes down to the same thoughts, energy, and creativity of the same Quality Giants, Walter Shewhart, W. Edwards Deming, Phillip Crosby and Joseph Juran.

1. Quality is a planned event suffers and fails in spontaneity.

2. Quality grows and prospers within a Culture of Quality, and fails in its absence.

3. The only acceptable level of medical laboratory error is ZERO error.

4. Quality is both continuous and cyclic.

5. Quality programs save time, effort, energy and money. Absence of quality programs fritters them all.

6. Quality always works from within and rarely works from without. Waiting for accreditation review is always too little and too late (Actually I don’t think that any of the aforementioned actually said that… But they should have).

So reach into the pile of books and literature, and commit to getting started. And get engaged in the process.  Spend a little money with a consultant, and tell them what you want and what you expect.    The money will all come back in the form of savings from costs of poor quality. More on this later.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Welcome to MMLQR

Greetings all and welcome to this blog.
It will be about why medical laboratories can benefit from quality programs, for reasons other than satisfying an accreditation body. There are too many real and proven benefits to talk about (patient safety, effective reporting, cost reductions, business opportunity, academic interest and opportunities, quality partners) that by far supersede the mundane trivialities of accreditation.

A little about me (more later).
I am a medical laboratorian with a long time interest in Laboratory Quality. I run a university based proficiency testing program for medical microbiology (More on CMPT later) and a Program Office for Certification of Laboratory Quality Managers (POLQM). I work with ISO, Standards Council of Canada, Canadian Standards Association, and a number of other programs that we can talk about later.
And I work as the Medical Director for Quality for a large community based medical laboratory.

My plan for this blog is to raise issues, share opinions, and vent.
Materials will refresh regularly.
So for those listening, welcome aboard.