Ask The Expert with Barry Craig | November 2012

We are not happy with our reference lab. Is there a good way to pick another one or are they pretty much all the same?


There are several good criteria for choosing a reference lab for send-out testing.

  1.  Location: This will determine how far your specimen has to travel to be tested. Your turn around time for receiving results is tied to how far the specimen has to travel. Also, the integrity of the specimen loses ground the longer it bounces around on a delivery truck.
  2. Customer Service: How does the lab respond to problems? Do they have dedicated representative to work with your office? If they fix a problem does it stay fixed or just crop up again a few months later?
  3. Testing: How much of what you send them is actually performed by them at their site? How much of what you send to them do they have to turn around and send out themselves to get results?
  4. Supplies: Are they willing to provide you with all the supplies and materials necessary to collect, transport and prepare the specimens for analysis by their lab?

These are all good questions to address with any lab that wants your business. Another good question to ask is how do they bill your patients that do not have insurance. Some labs are willing to bill non-insured patients at a reduced rate.



Part of the required annual competency assessment for lab employees requires that I perform "direct observation" of the employee being evaluated. What is the best way to do this and document it?


I suggest "blind" observation works best. This does not mean hire a blind person to watch your employee perform tests. What it means is this; If Susie knows you are standing over her with a clipboard to observe perform a CBC, she will be very careful to do everything just right, lest she face the wrath of your red pen.

I believe the best way to evaluate someone is to watch them perform the testing when they do not know they are being observed, or watch them in a casual manner with no clipboard or announcements. You want to see how they perform in the wild, in their natural habitat. (The lab is a jungle sometimes)

I would document the following:

  1. They check the identifiers on the specimen before testing.
  2. They follow all the steps correctly in the testing process.
  3. They evaluate the results and make sure the ordering party receives the results.



How can I date my kits, reagents, etc. when I open them or receive them without hand writing on stuff with a permanent marker?


I would go to a local office supply store and get an adjustable stamp. You can rotate it to the date and time you want and just stamp the outside of the package. Some even have "RECEIVED" or "OPEN" as part of the wording