Institute for Quality in Laboratory Medicine: Recognizing Excellence in Practice: Highlights From First Landmark Summit -- An Opportunity to Enhance Medical Care; April 28-30, 2005; Atlanta, Georgia

Robin E. Stombler; Anne Pollock; Julie R. Taylor, PhD; Susan Snyder, PhD, MBA; Devery Howerton, PhD; Colleen Shaw, MPH; D. Joe Boone, PhD


July 20, 2005

In This Article

Why the IQLM? Why a Conference?

by Robin E. Stombler

"Do we really need another organization devoted to quality?" It was a question widely contemplated as the Institute for Quality in Laboratory Medicine (IQLM) was forming. Although many professional societies, trade associations, corporations, and government agencies do focus on such quality initiatives as continuing education courses, quality process training programs, or establishing standards, no one organization is equipped to promote improvements in laboratory testing and services as a whole. Frankly, many national quality efforts rank laboratory-related projects low on the list of priorities, focusing instead on cardiac surgery, ambulatory care, hypertension, ventilator-associated pneumonia, and medication reconciliation.[1] For a healthcare service that supports 70% of all diagnoses in the US healthcare system, the status quo just wasn't acceptable.

Over 70 organizations agreed and joined the IQLM.[2] The purpose of the IQLM is to bring together the full spectrum of stakeholders involved in the delivery of laboratory services, including patients, clinicians, laboratory professionals, manufacturers, bio- and information technologists, government agency employees, payers, members of accrediting bodies, and health systems personnel. Although groups representing these interests have collaborated in the past, not one organization, until now, brought all these parties together for a mission dedicated to promoting improvements in laboratory testing and services.

Several broad goals have been identified for the IQLM. These goals reach both ends of the total testing process, from refining test ordering, to improving interpretation of laboratory test results, to developing patient-centered laboratory reports. Enhancing patient safety and care by including all phases of laboratory testing in promoting communication among stakeholders and helping to bridge the gap across the quality chasm with quality measures were also rated as high priorities. Equally important to setting the IQLM agenda is understanding what the IQLM will not pursue. The organization is not an accrediting, licensing, standard-setting, or regulatory body and has no intention of entering these areas, which are already performed by others. Instead, it will focus on supporting research. It will also develop, promote, and disseminate the best indicators, networks, and practices that can lead to substantial improvements in quality, effectiveness, safety, and appropriateness of care for patients.

The IQLM held its first conference, Recognizing Excellence in Practice, on April 28-30, 2005, in Atlanta, Georgia. Heralded as a landmark summit by some attendees, the conference brought together a variety of stakeholders to begin a more intense dialogue on how to achieve quality improvements for laboratory tests and services. In his keynote remarks, Kenneth W. Kizer, MD, MPH, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Quality Forum, sounded the alarm: "Laboratory medicine needs to be a fully integrated partner in healthcare . . . (it) is not in the mainstream of medicine right now . . . and it needs to be."

Dennis S. O'Leary, MD, President of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, in his keynote address, expressed strong support for the IQLM. "IQLM is a collaborative venture with great hopes," he stated. "The laboratory is not a silo. People who lead laboratories need to reach out, communicate and engage . . . this is about leadership and initiative." When examining national efforts to improve patient safety, Dr. O'Leary noted that "Progress has been made -- even a lot of progress -- but we are still much closer to the beginning of this journey than anywhere else."

The IQLM conference officially kick-started this integrated quality improvement journey for all stakeholders. It will not be the last.


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