Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Labquality Days: A Quality Adventure

Labquality Days: A Quality Adventure

Over the last while I have had the opportunity to attend a number of laboratory quality oriented conferences; Laboratory Quality Confab in San Antonio (held this year in New Orleans), Seeding Knowledge conference in Jeddah, our own POLQM Laboratory Quality Conference in Vancouver, and most recently LabQuality Days in Helsinki Finland.  Each has been a unique experience and each equally excellent with its own features. 

Of the group, LabQuality Days has had the longest run; this year was the 43rd holding, going back to 1973, apparently without a break.  I could be wrong, but that must be the longest run for a medical laboratory quality oriented conference anywhere in the world.  

Apparently over the years there have been both lean and abundant attendances.  This year there were about 500 people split into two simultaneous sub-conferences, one held in Finnish, and the other in English.  The Helsinki Conference held the session without any difficulty.  

I can’t speak about the Finnish conference in large part because my facility in Finnish is non-existent.  (Apparently I am not alone.  I am told that the only place where Finnish is spoken is in Finland.)  But I can say that as I walked by their sessions in the main auditorium it was always full.  The international conference was held in a smaller room for about 200 people and it was always well attended as well.
The international conference had a dual theme: Pre-analytics and Point of Care; two topics with a lot of current interest, obviously with widespread appeal.  The speakers were widely distributed from Canada (me), Australia, and an array from across Europe including Norway, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, Lithuania, UK, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.  Apparently that was only a small subset of the total group distribution; in total there were folks from 26 different countries.   

I probably shouldn’t speak for others, but I leaned tons, and was really happy that I had attended.  

The meeting was started by the keynote speaker Bruce Oreck (a former American Ambassador to Finland) who talked about the state of highly disruptive change that is impacting business in general and by inference the medical laboratory.  Bruce is not the first speaker to raise the topic, but certainly was very effective.

To my mind, the person from who I learned the most was Anne Stavelin, from the EQA/PT program in Norway (NOKLUS) who was very much in the disruptive mode herself.  Norway was recognized that the primary user of Point of Care tests is NOT the hospital laboratory or emergency department, but is the family docs in the community, and also recognizes that they also have an obligation to be competent and deserve the opportunity to learn through quality assessment.  Astoundingly in a country of 5 million people, NOKLUS has almost 5 thousand clients participating in EQA associated with POCT.  For the arithmetically challenged, that means that close to one out of every 1000 people (0.1percent) living in Norway is involved in quality assessment.  The mind boggles.   

For the anatomic pathology folks Pedro Soares de Oliveira from Portugal was pretty disruptive as well as he talked about how much the preparation of glass slide samples for pathology analysis continues to be an “art “ rather than a “science” still dependent on touch and feeling rather than precision and standardization.  I wonder how one would calculate the measurement uncertainty of the impact of sample reading and interpretation and diagnosis.  Clearly the times, they are a-changing very soon

I am really happy that I have had the opportunity to be introduced to this meeting.  Better late than never.  This will not be a one-off attendance.

A warning to folks not living in northern climes; the weather is not nice, but the hospitality  and meeting  and greeting and learning opportunities abound and far out way the inconveniences of some rain, or snow and cold.

PS:  We will be continuing to host our POLQM Medical Laboratory Quality Conferences  in October in Vancouver.  I am not sure that we will hold 43 conferences under my management, but maybe with my successor?

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