Does your company perform internal testing on your products? Do you know if they are accurate – meaning, are you confident that they are correct? Are all of your technician’s performing testing the same way? Are they following written documented procedures or performing the techniques because “that is how they were trained?” If you have answered yes (or no) to any of these questions, you should consider participating in a proficiency testing (PT) program. Whether the program itself is new or old to you, these 5 steps can help ensure you achieve accurate testing results.
- Understand the Program Are there requirements that that need to be met (ex: accreditation required) when choosing your program? ISO 17043 is the standard specifically dedicated to proficiency accreditation. Is the matrix compatible to your normal testing processes? Are the testing instructions straightforward? Deadlines are inevitable, even for this type of program. Be sure that you can complete your testing prior to the results submission deadline.
- Establish and Document Processes Help create consistency by making testing standard every time samples arrive. If you take this approach, it eliminates uncertainty factors when performing root cause analysis. Technicians are also able to follow these processes step by step, ensuring not only their actions are correct but that they are not deviating daily without knowledge. Continue to create robust procedures by formally reviewing them and make necessary changes based on failures or investigations.
- Allocate appropriate time to review all work There is nothing more frustrating that submitting results and determining a short time later an error that could have been prevented. Establish a timeframe that allows for technical review of all results before submission. This may mean reviewing your testing timeframe to ensure that there is enough time to perform the testing. What do you need to review – at a bare minimum:
- Raw data to final results
- Final results to data submission
- Complete a 2nd technician technical review within 24 hours of submission deadline
- Trend Your Data Why? Data doesn’t have value if it just acts as a placeholder! Review your z’ scores each round. Note any questionable or unacceptable results. Do you see positive or negative trends? Could it be matrix related or trends associated with a technician (or multiple individuals)? What about supplies and the data itself? Don’t forget dilution errors (which we see frequently) and use these as learning opportunities.
- ASK QUESTIONS! There may be many reasons why you choose to participate in a PT program, but one of the most important should be to improve the performance of yourself and your company. If you have questions – ASK! From beginning to end, the PT provider is there to help. Are you a new enrollee and this this whole concept is “green” to you? Oh crap – I have an OOS result, what should I do? These are all great opportunities to build a stronger relationship with your PT provider.
If you already involved in a PT program but think it's time to strengthen your performance, add the step above. But...if you are not - one of Cherney's Five PT programs might be what you are looking for. Although many of our 1st quarter shipments have already taken place, you can still join for 2nd - 4th quarters and start on the path of being able to answer "yes" to all the questions above!