Presenting Inspection Documentation Electronically - A Survey of Laboratories

By Matt Swanson, Director of Operations, BS, MLS(ASCP), CLSSBB

April 09, 2021

Providing documentation during a laboratory inspection is always a challenge. We’ve all seen carts of binders and files being rolled to wherever the inspection team is located. The virtual surveys brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have added another layer of complexity. Manual (paper) records must somehow be presented to an inspector, either one at a time via webcam or by scanning to a file and allowing remote access. At a practical level, these records all need to be double handled – first when the data is recorded, and a second time to make them digitally available. 

Some aspects of remote inspections work well, especially for the accrediting or inspecting agency. Travel costs are reduced, the time spent traveling to and from client locations is eliminated, and inspection teams can now be as large and as specialized as they need to be without cost as a limiting factor.

However, the inspection landscape is beginning its slow march towards a new normal. In their recent announcement, The Joint Commission announced that unannounced onsite surveys would return on March 15, 2021.1 “Enhanced technology” is listed as one continuing approach, so some aspects of virtual inspections are here to stay. Other agencies are certain to follow suit.

You can download a free PDF copy of the survey results by clicking the button below:


As the laboratory industry deals with this new challenge, StaffReady has conducted a limited survey of laboratory leaders at various institutions across the US. We present a few of our final results here - feel free to download the entire survey. The survey was anonymous, and all participants will receive the results of the full survey now that the results are tabulated and published.  

What is your process of handling the assignment of Proficiency Testing samples or blind samples – Paper, Electronic, or a Mix? How is that going?

Good laboratory practice dictates that proficiency samples or other blind challenges be rotated amongst the staff in a section. It makes for a more realistic and fair assessment. The process of actually assigning which tech gets which sample is still largely conducted on paper. Very few respondents – only 13% - indicated that they have some sort of dedicated electronic solution outside the LIS that documents the assignment tracking process.

Do you currently utilize an electronic documentation system to support your needs when presenting department information during a virtual or onsite visit?

Nearly two-thirds of the survey respondents stated that they had some sort of electronic system outside of their LIS which was used to provide documentation during an inspection. However, nearly all respondents stated that they had pockets of paper records that would have to be scanned for remote viewing.

What type of functionality do you feel is missing?

A few responses floated to the top of our survey here. The most common response was a lack of centralization - multiple systems had to be accessed. Most institutions stated that scanning paper records took time that they simply did not have, and made for a mad scramble on the day(s) of inspection. Less than 14% of respondents felt that their current functionality was acceptable.

Understanding, measuring, and mitigating the impacts of managing virtual inspections or "enhanced technologies" during a survey by an accrediting agency is key to your success. At StaffReady, our goal is to bring new efficiencies to your organization through our software.

If this topic is of interest to you, stay tuned. We will have some news soon on a new StaffReady module that can assist laboratories, pharmacies, imaging centers, and other hospital departments with reducing or eliminating paper record keeping.

StaffReady healthcare software provides cloud-based solutions that automate staff scheduling, competency assessment, document control and checklist management for healthcare organizations. StaffReady is Clinical Workforce Management Software.


Matt Swanson, Director of Operations, BS, MLS(ASCP), CLSSBB

Matt Swanson is the Director of Operations at StaffReady. He came to StaffReady with 29 years of experience in the clinical laboratory, with roles varying from Bench Tech to Operations Management to Consultant to Business Intelligence Analyst.  He became a Certified Lean Six-Sigma Black Belt in 2017. Find Matt on LinkedIn.