COLA Offers Laboratories Tips for Restoring Operations Post-Storm

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Accreditor Urges Both Member and Non-Member Labs to Call Toll-Free Number for Assistance

COLUMBIA, MD, November 2, 2012 ­ COLA, a leading laboratory accreditor, today released five key tips for laboratories affected by Hurricane Sandy to assist with their recovery efforts.

³Hurricane Sandy may well go down as the costliest, most disruptive disaster in the nation¹s history,² said COLA Chief Executive Officer Douglas Beigel. ³For many laboratories along the East Coast that were affected by the storm, the hard part ­ cleaning up and resuming operations ­ has just begun. COLA stands ready to help both member and non-member laboratories remain CLIA compliant by calling our toll-free Customer Care line at 1-800-981-9883.²

The COLA tips include the following:

  • Remove temperature-sensitive materials, including reagents, calibrators, or controls, from refrigerators and freezers affected by a loss of power. If power loss was for a short period of time, move to an alternate refrigerator or freezer. Styrofoam coolers, with a thermometer for monitoring temperatures, may be used for short periods, as long as the required temperature is maintained. Keep appropriate records of the temperature during these time periods. If power loss was for an extended period of time, and the materials were out of temperature range, the integrity of that product may be suspect. Laboratories are urged to call the manufacturer for guidance to assure that quality is not compromised.
  • If your lab stores blood products for transfusion, review your temperature graphs if the storage refrigerator lost power at any time. Follow your written procedures to store blood in alternate refrigerators or containers if necessary. Do not transfuse any refrigerated products that reached ten degrees Celsius.
  • Monitor your operating conditions such as temperature and humidity. If your instruments are running on back-up power, but your air conditioning is not operating due to power loss, be sure that the operating environment is within the range stated by the manufacturer.
  • If you are using a Laboratory Information System, you should have procedures in place that provide for adequate back-up of the system in case of power failure. When power is back up, be sure to check your system data for completeness and integrity. When using an LIS, you must have manual methods to back up the requisitions, reports, instrument tapes and test logs. Instrument tapes, patient test logs and manual reports must be retained for two years unless scanned into the computer once back on line.
  • Follow your manufacturer¹s instructions for restarting equipment that went down due to a power outage. Contact your manufacturer if you have any concerns about the systems. Run quality control following a prolonged power outage.

³To these five tips, I would add one more - whenever possible, leverage technology in a way that facilitates recovery even before the storm hits,² Beigel said. ³For example, COLA¹s clients have access to COLAcentral, our online portal, where they can upload all important documents and records for cloud storage. Thus, in the event of a catastrophic event like Sandy, documents can be recovered even if the originals are lost.

³No one can control when or where a weather-related disaster will occur,² Beigel added. ³As impacted labs recover from Sandy, they should also prepare themselves for the next disruptive weather event. We owe this to our patients in order to ensure the highest levels of care.²

About COLA

COLA accredits almost 8,000 medical laboratories and provides the clinical laboratory with a program of education, consultation, and accreditation. The organization is an independent, non-profit accreditor whose education program and standards enable clinical laboratories and staff to meet U.S. CLIA and other regulatory requirements. For more information about COLA accreditation services and educational products, and online educational opportunities, please call 800-981-9883 or visit COLA's web site at www.cola.org or www.colainsider.org.

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