Navigating Healthcare Challenges in an Election Year: The Vital Role of Medical Laboratory Professionals

As a new election year is upon us, I found myself discouraged. Then I thought about how this year could be particularly impactful on healthcare. There are many differing opinions that exist, but one thing we all can agree on is that we need quality healthcare for ourselves and those that we love.

As you walked into an outpatient draw station to have your blood collected, have you thought about the step from when you sat in that chair for your blood draw until the result shows up in your chart? During the blood collection portion of the process, utilizing the correct collection tubes, the correct processing, and storage of your blood sample all impact the result. Then comes the testing portion of the process. Let’s assume your sample made it to the lab without any mishandling errors. An educated and certified medical laboratory professional will perform your testing. Many individuals in the medical field think this process is simple. The work required to ensure the test results are correct is an endless stream of checking, calculating, and checking again. Our system of checks and balances is lovingly referred to as Quality Control (QC).

In today’s rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, the role of QC in laboratory settings cannot be overstated. Laboratories are entrusted with providing accurate and reliable test results, forming the cornerstone of clinical decision-making. To ensure the highest standards of quality and safety, laboratories must employ robust QC processes and adapt to emerging technologies and guidelines.

At the forefront of every laboratory operation is the implementation of an effective QC plan. These protocols serve as essential tools for generating quality benchmarks and driving process improvements to safeguard test performance.

Following the onboarding of new shipments of reagents (chemical materials used in the testing process), medical lab professionals conduct rigorous comparison analyses. This crucial step ensures that parameters like statistical means and standard deviations are appropriately set, thereby maintaining the integrity, consistency, and believability of test results.

In our quest for continuous improvement, we leverage additional statistical applications to optimize QC practices. By programming these advanced methodologies into QC software, we aim to minimize erroneous patient results. In the event an error in the system is not detected, incorrect results will be inappropriately placed into to the patient’s chart. For example, consider a loved one who has a diagnosis of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland). They require regular medication adjustments to maintain normal thyroid functionality to stabilize their overall health. If the results of their thyroid tests are incorrect, this could lead to incorrect dosage of medicine like levothyroxine. The side effects of levothyroxine overdose are listed publicly and can be found in the link at the bottom of this article. This is one example of thousands of different laboratory tests performed in most hospital and clinical labs across the United States. As cited in a recent study, “approximately 14 billion laboratory medicine tests are performed annually in the US.” “Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the significance of laboratory diagnostic testing has been further highlighted, having performed over 1.15 billion COVID-19 tests as of November 2023. The work of medical laboratory professionals spans all age groups, making laboratory testing the most significant medical activity affecting every American throughout their life” (Robinson and Rohde, 2024).

Drawing upon manufacturing guidelines and patient test frequency, medical laboratory professionals develop tailored QC plans to meet the unique needs of each laboratory setting. QC events are assessed on a daily, weekly, and monthly schedule by a supervisor. Through ongoing evaluation and adjustment, these steps ensure that QC processes remain aligned with evolving standards and best practices. This is required to ensure the accuracy of laboratory test results.

To streamline operations and address potential challenges, medical lab leaders create comprehensive policies, procedures, flowcharts, and worksheets for troubleshooting purposes. These resources serve as invaluable tools for laboratory testing staff, facilitating efficient problem-solving and ensuring seamless workflow continuity.

Further steps are taken to instill a culture of stewardship and excellence among medical laboratory professionals. Lab leaders are entrusted with educating and empowering laboratory staff to effectively manage costly lab materials while upholding the highest standards for result accuracy, and ultimately patient care.

By prioritizing the implementation of robust QC practices, laboratories can uphold the highest standards of quality, accuracy, and patient safety. Through ongoing training, analysis, and process refinement, we remain committed to advancing the field of laboratory medicine and optimizing patient care outcomes.

As we embark on a new election year, it’s important to recognize the profound impact that healthcare policies can have on our lives and the lives of our loved ones. While opinions may differ, the universal need for quality healthcare remains undeniable. The best path to accurate laboratory services to ensure quality healthcare is to support the passage of a Right to Practice Professional License for Medical Laboratory Professionals.

Medical laboratory professionals undergo a certification processes. However, in many states a license isn’t mandated. This lowers the standard of care. Reciprocity is common and encouraged among state licensure bills to allow laboratory professional to move seamlessly between states. Similar to other healthcare professionals, we often navigate across state lines. A compact licensing model could be implemented to address this problem. Under such a system, professionals would maintain licensure in their home state, granting them the ability to practice in numerous states for a defined period, mirroring the approach utilized by nurses. This initiative would streamline the licensing process and facilitate mobility for medical laboratory professionals while ensuring consistent standards of practice across different jurisdictions.

From the moment a patient enters an outpatient draw station to the delivery of accurate test results, the meticulous processes and rigorous quality control measures undertaken by medical laboratory professionals ensure the integrity of healthcare services. Behind every test result lies a dedicated team committed to maintaining the highest standards of accuracy and reliability.

As we face the myriad of challenges and possibilities of the approaching year, it’s imperative that we acknowledge and honor the unwavering commitment of medical laboratory professionals to safeguard our health and welfare. Our dedication and expertise form the foundation of the healthcare system. Let’s look toward a future that is marked by superior patient outcomes and an enriched quality of life. Amidst the recognition of our invaluable contributions, we must also recognize the urgent need for legislative action. It is paramount that we advocate for the passage of a bill that guarantees a Right to Practice Professional License for medical laboratory professionals in every state. Only through such measures can we ensure that we are empowered to continue our crucial work unhindered. Therefore, securing the health and well-being of all individuals within our communities.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/levothyroxine-oral-route/side-effects/drg-20072133

[https://biomedres.us/pdfs/BJSTR.MS.ID.008604.pdf]

Citation: Angela Tomei Robinson MS MLS(ASCP)CM and Rodney E Rohde PHD SM(ASCP)CM SVCM MBCM, FACSC. Workforce in the Shadow of Healthcare–An Update on the Survival Status of Laboratory Medicine and Public Health. Biomed J Sci & Tech Res 54(5)-2024. BJSTR. MS.ID.008604.

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