Every Laboratory Manager is excited about accreditation but it’s the onsite audit preparations that put pressure on the team preparing for the audit. Minor errors can potentially be misconstrued as non-conformities. Kisubi Hospital, Laboratory Manager, Patrick Ongom, shares the common challenges for laboratories today – audits and how to transition laboratory audits from paper-based to paperless.
What is a laboratory audit?
A laboratory audit is a process of review and assessment of laboratory performance, with the aim of improving patient care and enhancing laboratory performance.
What is the difference between a Paperless Audit and an On-site Audit?
A Paperless audit happens in two folds, it can be a process where you apply audit procedures online with the use of limited hard copies or two you apply audit procedures on an electronic quality management system with no hard copies at all. While an On-site audit is a process where the laboratory undergoes an audit with the auditors physically at the laboratory.
Why did Kisubi Hospital opt for a Paperless Audit?
With COVID-19 presenting many challenges for laboratories, a paperless audit allows work to be done and also an audit to take place outside of a physical location concurrently. Additionally, remote assessments are becoming a bigger reality, and for a laboratory having an effective system where they can demonstrate compliance is very essential. But the “why” of going paperless for Kisubi Hospital is in preparation for SANAS Accreditation and with the current travel restrictions, it is only imperative that we adapt to the times we are in given SANAS was able to accredit five laboratories here in Uganda in 2020 remotely with the facilitation of AGHPF.
How have you prepared your laboratory for a paperless audit?
As a laboratory manager, it is impossible to transition a laboratory that’s been paper-based for 20 years into an electronic system in a week. We first set realistic goals that were a learning for the team. To have 50% of the required material paperless, within a week, or even more than 30%, is good, as you learn and grow with the process. During the virtual audits, we often requested the assessment team scan some hardcopy documents and this was often received tolerantly. As the team leader, it was essential for me to be very critical but gentle while dealing with the team during the process as this was a learning process for all.
Document Control: Assess the documents you have and what you will need to use for the audit, then digitize everything that you need. Training the team on how to use the e-Audit platform or zoom platform and how to upload documents is a very key part of this process. This training helps you create an army of champions that can support document uploading, editing and run reports to see key document details like who has edited or approved the documents and what changes have been made. There is no need to be afraid to see guidance and clarity. Asking for help is another essential part of making a paperless audit easier for the laboratory manager and the team. It is okay to ask for help from other colleagues and industry professionals who have done this before! Their expertise is extremely valuable. A great way to find out the pitfalls in the system is by ascertaining where the laboratory often faces challenges during audits. For example, what do you have trouble demonstrating when working with an auditor? Once this is identified and rectified, you are ready for your first paperless audit— so, let’s go paperless!