College of American Pathologists
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  Activity menus: soon to be online and real time


August 2007
Originally published in CAP TODAY

Ed Finkel

New online activity menu reports from the CAP will enable laboratories to keep the core data related to accreditation accurate and up to date. This will make proficiency testing monitoring and regulatory reporting easier, and it will ensure that the correct checklists are assigned for on-site and self-inspections.

“We’re doing this for convenience, for access at any time, and to keep the test menu updated,” says Nancy Yeransian, CAP manager of accreditation services, who says the reports will be online by the end of this year. “We want participants to be able to do things at their own time on their own schedule.” Labs will also be able to respond online to proficiency testing exceptions, she says.

Hospitals are likely to set up permissions to access the menus similar to how the CAP’s proficiency testing is handled through a site administrator for e-Lab Solutions—in fact, it could well be the same person, says Jamie Feinour, MT(ASCP), a consultant to the CAP’s Council on Accreditation and regulatory compliance manager at Presbyterian Healthcare System, Charlotte, NC.

“One of the biggest challenges is matching up the activity menu at CAP versus what the actual laboratory test menu is. A lot of times if [labs] add or change an activity menu item, the change is not getting updated at the CAP until their self-inspection or on-site inspection,” she says. “It could be almost a year lag time before the CAP finds out” which new test or tests the laboratory is performing, which ones it is no longer performing, or both.

Though CAP-led focus groups brought forth “resounding requests” for activity menus to be online, many laboratory staff do not realize how important it is to keep their activity menu up to date, Feinour says, which means education is needed, similar to that provided when the CAP rolled out e-Lab Solutions.

“When the CAP first came out with the e-Lab Solutions, they provided very good educational step-by-step training on how to use the new tool,” she says. “That type of training would also need to be done when the laboratory activity menu is available online.”

In addition to the convenience they will provide, the online activity menu reports represent the first step toward greater interactivity between labs and the CAP, Yeransian says. The next phase will be to allow labs to make the changes online or in the system. “At this point,” she says, “it’s paper-based, where they have to download something and fax in the form.”

Feinour sees the online activity menu reports as a step toward the ultimate goal: “customized checklists available to us online.”

“That can’t happen unless our activity menu is up to date, real-time.... The best thing for a laboratory is to have its customized checklist available to them. If the activity menu is old, the customized checklist is not going to be up to date and accurate. It all gets tied together,” she says.

Indeed, there is more to come, Yeransian adds. “It’s the first interactive project that we’re kicking off with our participants for laboratory accreditation,” she says. “Eventually, they’ll be getting the entire reapplication online, being able to view all kinds of information.” The second phase will include demographic information changes and other materials. “This is one of the first waves of electronic interaction,” Yeransian says.

Ed Finkel is a writer in Evanston, Ill.