College of American Pathologists
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  Sign of the times: CAP unveils new service mark


CAP Today




October 2009
Feature Story

Ed Finkel

For years, laboratories accredited by the CAP, particularly those from overseas, have wanted a graphic service mark as recognition to put on their printed materials and, more recently, their Web sites.

Some have used the CAP’s trademarked logo, though the College’s terms of accreditation prohibit doing so. Others have used text taglines that, while conveying the necessary information, do not catch the reader’s eye in quite the same way.

Starting Oct. 23, the CAP is providing a certification mark to meet this need for the 7,000 laboratories in more than 40 countries worldwide that meet the standards of the CAP’s Laboratory Accreditation Program.

“Laboratories are looking for a means to let their customers know about the quality of services they provide,” says Marcia Geotsalitis, vice president of the Laboratory Accreditation Program. “By having this mark available on their marketing materials and results reports for laboratory services, they will have a quick way to let their clients know their services meet the CAP’s accreditation standards.”

International laboratories pushed hardest for the certification mark, Geotsalitis says. Being able to display accreditation status is more important for them because fewer laboratories overseas have passed the CAP’s stringent requirements and because many countries do not have universally accepted standards like the requirements of the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments.

In addition, most domestic labs already had a way to list the information on the bottom of their reports or letterhead, Geotsalitis says, while “service marks in other countries are also more traditional. They’re accustomed there to seeing something that looks more like a service mark.”

C. Robert Baisden, MD, a member of the CAP’s International Accreditation Committee, says the more urgent need of laboratories overseas to display accreditation status has led some of them to bend the rules and use the CAP’s trademarked logo.

“I’ve seen this on a truck in Peru, I’ve seen it on reports in Germany, I’ve seen it on letters that people were using to try to get consultations in China,” he says. “It just shows up everywhere. We had to come up with something.

“All of us who do international inspections are delighted we finally got it,” Dr. Baisden adds. “The pathologists who inspect internationally were the driving force for it. They saw the CAP registered trademark being used in lieu of it. At the same time, our attorneys said it would be illegal for anyone but the CAP to use it. So we needed a substitute that carried the same significance in the eye of the consumer.”

Jay Schamberg, MD, chair of the Council on Accreditation, which approved the mark before the full CAP Board of Governors did so, sounded a couple of notes of caution about its use. For one, laboratories should use it only in areas and locations where they are accredited.

“Laboratories with many sites may be a little loose with how they use it,” he says. “We accredit a specific physical facility. In some organizations, the main facility may be CAP-accredited, but they have implied that their service centers are CAP-accredited. We’re going to need to be careful about making sure it’s used appropriately.”

Second, Dr. Schamberg says, the CAP might need to clear up confusion about what exactly the mark means. “We’re certifying the process; we’re not certifying every result coming out of a laboratory,” he says. “The fear is that if the mark is on a results report, it could be construed that this is the CAP saying it’s a valid result. And we’re not saying that. We certify that they have a quality plan in place, that they have good procedures, and good laboratory management.”

In addition, the CAP’s terms of use say accredited labs may not change the mark or combine it with another graphic, must provide samples of all uses if requested, must comply with guidelines the CAP might publish for its use in the future, must stop using the mark immediately if accreditation is withdrawn, and must stop using the mark within 30 days if the CAP discontinues its use.

Ed Finkel is a writer in Evanston, Ill.