Medical Testing Labs

Regulations or Accreditations ??? – beginning of a new conundrum

Medical Labs are undoubtedly an important part of the health ecosystem in any country but in India, like many other sectors related to health and safety, they have remained largely unregulated and therefore lacking assurance of quality and reliability.

The Clinical Establishments Act, 2010 intended to fill this gap but unfortunately only 11 states and almost all union territories have adopted the Act till now and from all accounts none has enforced the minimum standards prescribed under it. Therefore, there is not even data on how many medical labs are operating in the country much less any measure of their quality. The role of medical labs came into sharper focus as covid pandemic set in and India scrambled to develop covid testing facilities.The question begs an answer not only in relation to covid testing but for the larger issue of assuring quality of medical labs in general in the country.

Read the informative post by Mr Anil Jauhri, International Conformity Assessment Expert about Medical Labs and whether they need Regulations or Accreditations in the country .

Source : Healthcare Quality News Letter from QAI – http://www.qai.org.in/

Laboratory Director Designation – ISO 15189 Standard Requirement

Designation of Lab Director, a QMS Specification, becoming a HR Issue in the Laboratory

Chithambaranathan Sivasubramonian, Associate Consultant

nathan@valueadded.in

Medical Laboratories & the need to create a dedicated Laboratory Director Post / Designation to satisfy QMS requirement

Isn’t this becoming a HR issue

A Laboratory Professional from a client organization reached out to us seeking clarification on Lab Director’s role in Accreditation process. She was asked by the Management to redesignate Lab Director as Lab head in Accreditation documents and she wanted to know if its ok to do so as Accreditation norm is asking for Lab Director designation.

This has triggered an internal discussion at office and we were debating about the need to create / insist on Lab Director’s designation / role in labs seeking accreditation.

Medical Labs were obtaining National / International Certifications, Accreditations all these years and each program has its own spec. However, the global trend in the last few years has shifted towards introducing Minimum Standards for Medical Labs and many countries have rolled out the program. India too has rolled out the Minimum Stds for Labs as Regulatory spec under Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010.

Let’s take the case of a Lab appointing a Lab Director as an accreditation norm and see what is listed out by various National , International Stds for this requirement.

We have the following popular programs for Medical Labs running in our country :

  • Minimum Standards mandated under CEA. Both NABL, QAI offer Certification programs under this scheme in the country.
  • ISO 9001:2015 – Quality Management Systems Certification Program
  • Med Labs Certification Programs offered by NABH
  • Med Labs Accreditation Programs offered by NABL, CAP and QAI

Minimum Standards has mandated the Minimum qualification of Technical Head of Laboratory or Specialist or Authorized Signatories. Clearly defined spec on who should act as Technical head is mentioned. So any Certification program offered by NABL, QAI or any other body has to have the same spec in their Certification, Accreditation criteria as compliance to Minimum Standards is a Regulatory requirement.

ISO 9001:2015 Standard Clause 7 Support talks in general about Personnel competency, training needs etc. No other specification is listed as it’s a generic QMS Standard applicable for all businesses.

NABH Essential Standards for Medical Laboratories program talks about Personnel and its clearly mentioned about the Responsibility of Quality Manager & Technical Manager. But with respect to overall responsibility of the Laboratory Head, NABH Essential Standard for Medical Laboratories hasn’t mentioned anything much. So overall responsibility of Lab Head s not clear enough under this program.   

QAI’s Recognition for Medical Laboratory Program, in Human Resources section – MBBS Doctor or MSc Pathology/Medical Microbiology/Medical Biochemistry are recognized qualification for Authorized Signatory. But there is no evidence of defining the overall responsibility of the laboratory head and the same isn’t clear in the QAI Recognition of Medical Laboratory Program either.      

NABL’s Med Lab Accreditation Program mentions that Laboratory Director/ Head of Laboratory/ Technical Head (howsoever named), shall have the overall responsibility of Operations of the laboratory. Hence Lab Director’s Designation / Role is not mandatory. This is thee specific criteria document on NABL which is NABL 112. But the Standard for this program is ISO 15189:2012 which talks about the need to designate Laboratory Director.

CAP’s Laboratory Accreditation Program has a mandatory specification for Lab Director’s Designation and Role.

When 80-90% of the Labs in the country belong to Small labs category, can all qualify for Certifications, Accreditations. An ideal case is for Small labs to opt for Minimum Standards as 1st step towards the Quality journey before migrating to Certifications, Accreditations Programs. Compliance to Min Stds is also mandatory as it’s a Regulatory requirement.

My Thoughts as a Lab QMS Consultant :

I’m going back to the question asked by the Lab Professional whether its mandatory to have Lab Director Role and Designation in the Accredited Lab.

As a Consultant in healthcare industry, I would say it’s a debatable topic. The requirement depends on the National, International Standards followed by the Med Labs.

I have listed out the personnel spec given by each Standard for Med Labs. Lab Director’s Designation is a hierarchy in the organogram and can’t be maintained by all Labs. Labs can specify their own designations as listed in the NABL 112 Criteria OR criteria.