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31 Mar 2004 | eLABORATE

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Laboratory Accreditation Program - ACDLA (NSW)

By Derek Tracey


We all know the growing litigious society we are becoming. It seems we must now be more and more careful about every decision we make in business and the legal ramifications.

The Laboratory Accreditation Program (LAP) has been on the agenda of various laboratory associations for years, however it has always been shoved in the "too hard basket" when in reality, the simplicity of a model was always staring people in the face.

It all started with a notion that if Dental Laboratories become more responsible for their actions then all Laboratories, Dentists and Patients must benefit. Great idea, but could this really happen in our society? Well finally it has. With the initiative of a group within the NSW branch of the Australian Commercial Dental Laboratories Association (ACDLA), what seemed an arduous task has become a reality.

The ACDLA (NSW) Laboratory Accreditation Program is of simple structure and there lies the key to its success. As the movement gathers momentum and support from other bodies, including government, the association can gradually instil other components to encompass a greater range of protections for all.

As with other more self-regulated industries, the ACDLA NSW has brought about the idea so to insure that the program members can advertise and promote to the industry and others that accredited laboratories comply to the guidelines set by the program.

These guidelines, which are at present accepted by the Association, allow the Laboratory to work through a set program using a unique approach to completing the required prerequisites and signing off when each goal is achieved. Very simple.

To follow up, the ACDLA randomly selects participants for inspection. No, it is not the Spanish inquisition - this is a program to help all. Participants of the follow up inspections invite the feedback and this information can be shared. This helps to verify the selected laboratory meets the requirements of the program.

Along with checking their integrity as a registered business, the labs involved must attest to their compliance with other points within the program - OH&S, qualification to practice, equipment compliance and support infrastructure to name a few.

At first, the Association thought this idea would be a hard sell to the already paid membership but most have looked upon it as an extra incentive to "lift one's game". As the program developed and the concept was advertised, many members of the ACDLA NSW desired to become Accredited Laboratories. With such strong initial interest, it was agreed to start the program. Soon after floating the program, the Association had nearly 35% take-up of the idea. This suggested that even in its early days, this accreditation program could help Dental Laboratories become self-regulating in part.

The program has been in existence for nearly 12 months and renewal documents are about to be issued for the ensuing 12 months. The annual review of the participants allows for increased scrutiny and legislation changes as needed.

Increasing the spread of the ideals and benefits to the rest of the members who are not participating and the institutions that could rely upon the concepts of this program is the Association's prime goal for the next 12 months. From inception, the accreditation program was designed to be a learning and growing idea, to allow an exchange of information to member Laboratories whilst helping to safeguard the members interests and the follow on to Dentists and patients.

This accreditation helps to promote professionalism of the member labs to show their clients that they are working for a more qualified result for their overall business. For example, if the public was educated to the point that if their appliance was issued from an accredited Laboratory, then in fact they would have a better chance that the appliance was constructed with controls to protect their safety and quality construction. This is even more important now with a tougher Therapeutic Goods Act.

The clinicians who use the accredited Lab afford themselves peace of mind knowing that they have issued an appliance backed by industry. It is hoped clinicians might better back an appliance made through an accredited lab if the all too common lurking litigation was threatened knowing that industry checks have occurred. Just like insurance.

This program was not constructed to restrict any Laboratory from the group but in fact it was designed to allow any size Laboratory to participate. It does, however, not allow for the proverbial "back yard sweatshop" - that may abuse workers, fall short of industry standards and possibly leave their clients wide open to litigation - to participate. The ideals of this state association body were to put a greater emphasis on industry presentation and understanding. Thus the industry can show government and commercial bodies that it is willing and able to become a competent and more self-regulating part of the dental industry.

An official accreditation logo has been designed and printed decals have been distributed allowing for easy recognition of accredited laboratories. The logo is also issued via electronic medium to labs for use within their stationary and advertising whilst they are accredited.

At present the ACDLA (National) is looking at taking up the NSW model for introduction to the rest of the country. If your Laboratory would like to become part of this program then you should contact the ACDLA office within your state.

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