Monday, February 27, 2012

Don't Stretch for Quality

In our course today the term “Stretch Goal” came up for conversation. For the athletes this has nothing to do with Pilates or Yoga or muscle relaxation.  It is a term that describes having business goals that may or may not be necessary but require resources and abilities beyond current capabilities, but cannot be done  in incremental steps. A common expression is that one can’t take two steps to hurdle a fire pit.

The reality is that stretch goals sometimes are the only way to go when, for example, an organization sees itself collapsing due to a harsh economic environment or a massive competitive onslaught.  A rapid and major overall may be only way to survive.

But it is a truly lousy way to try to implement or coordinate Quality. 
In the medical laboratory unfortunately we see “Stretch Quality” all too often.  The director gets a letter saying “Dear Doctor.  This is to let you know that our accreditation team will be visiting you in 4 weeks.  Yours sincerely…”  The director looks around and sees that NOTHING has been done in the Quality area for years and tries to implement a massive fix-up.  Often it succeeds, only because the inspector group was sufficiently disinterested or ill-informed that they don’t actually bother to look around.  So the laboratory dodges a bullet and says, “Good thing that’s over.  Wake me up before the next inspection”. 

Incremental Quality is better.  A mini internal audit here and another one there and another one next month, and after a while you have a lot done.  We just did our third audit today and when we go into our external review in March we will have documented review of over 250 requirements.  Combined the mini audits took about 4 hours total.  We have reviewed our Strategic Quality Plan and developed 2 new policies and 4 revisions since our last inspection; and two customer audits.  And none of it was panic or painful.  Even with our small but very busy operation we can find the time to get this stuff done. 

I am not suggesting that we have it all together, in fact our assessment overall was 94.7% compliance which means we had missed a bunch of things that need to be fixed.  But this incremental approach meant that we caught the problems before they became institutional or blew up in our face.  So that is a good thing. 

And speaking about good things…

We have set the final agenda for our Quality Seminar to be held in Vancouver on Wednesday May 2nd at the Sheraton Wall Hotel in conjunction with the conjoint meeting of the Association for Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases – Canada and the Canadian Association for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (how can one country have two organizations with nearly the same name and serving the same constituency!; long story!!). 

We will be talking about:

·       New national standard created through the Canadian Standards Association for procurement, handling and transport of samples for the medical laboratory.
·       Microbiology application annex for the new Canadian standard.
·       Monitoring Laboratory Error using a provincial on-line reporting system.
·       Direct-to-Patient reporting of laboratory test results
·        Challenges to Patient Confidentiality in the Medical Laboratory.

The meeting is only a half day (costs $100 Canadian for attendance, copy of the files, and coffee break), but for those interested in microbiology the AMMI-CACMID meeting is always brilliant.  You can find out more about the meeting at or

May is a great time of the year to be in the Canadian South-West and Vancouver is one of the best destinations in North America at that time of the year.  Amazing scenery, golf, skiing, boating, and the widest variety of incredible restaurants. 
Come join us!

In case you cannot, I plan to have the Quality Seminar on YouTube.


1 comment:

  1. Stretch Quality thus is an optional courses. But it seems to be promoting much of a business so it's worth the shot still. Vancouver sounds nice from the way you talked about it. Must be an exciting place to relax and take a break.


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