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Illustration of a clinical lab accreditation checklist program.
The Joint Commission accredits the majority of hospitals in the US and the laboratory should not be viewed in a silo when it comes to patient safety and quality.
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Increasing the Visibility of the Medical Laboratory Team

The Leading Laboratories program supports a patient-centric mission and recognizes labs' achievements

Heather Hurley

Heather Hurley is the executive director of laboratory accreditation and health systems strategic accounts at The Joint Commission. In this leadership role, Heather is responsible for leading business strategies and activities, including the development and implementation of products and services, The Joint Commission’s Laboratory Accreditation Program, Patient Blood Management Certification, and Integrated Care Certification.  

Heather joined The Joint Commission in 2017, with more than 13 years of commercial experience in the life sciences market.


Q: What makes The Joint Commission’s Laboratory Accreditation model unique?

A: We believe quality care begins in the laboratory, and often patient care starts with a laboratory result. Unique to The Joint Commission our Tracer Methodology approach used on surveys looks at all processes including both pre- and post-analytic. The approach identifies what happens from the time the sample is drawn to the time the results reach the patient to ensure accurate and timely diagnosis.  

The Joint Commission accredits the majority of hospitals in the US and the laboratory should not be viewed in a silo when it comes to patient safety and quality. What makes The Joint Commission unique is that we create synergy and standardization across entire clinical organizations by accrediting both laboratories and hospitals. There is a lot more testing happening outside the walls of the laboratory, especially at the point of care where nursing staff or other non-laboratory staff are performing nonwaived tests. Having all staff speak the same language and follow the same set of standards from The Joint Commission limits risk and identifies opportunities for gaps in the transitions and handoff of care from the laboratory to the clinicians to additional care settings.  

Q: How does The Joint Commission accreditation set labs up for success?

A: Success does not begin and end with a survey. While all Joint Commission surveyors go through rigorous training to make the on-site survey component a collaborative and educational experience, it is really just the tip of the iceberg in identifying risks and process improvements.   Organizations are on their patient safety and quality journey, and The Joint Commission provides tools and resources in addition to the survey to help prioritize process improvements. Our SAFER Matrix and newly launched SAFER Dashboard provide organizations with a lot of data and insights to compare where they are in terms of their process improvement needs compared to other organizations. 

Q: What is the Leading Laboratories program, and how did The Joint Commission and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) collaborate to create the program?

A: Leading Laboratories is a recognition program that goes beyond accreditation to acknowledge the exceptional work that laboratories are doing. The Joint Commission is the oldest and largest accrediting body in the US, and the ASCP has influenced laboratory medicine and pathology for almost a century. Our missions align in terms of commitment to patient safety and quality, making it a unique and perfect partnership to create this recognition program. In addition, both The Joint Commission and ASCP are committed to building more resilient laboratory teams and elevating the critical role of the laboratory throughout the greater clinical care settings, within our communities, and amongst our patients.  

Joint Commission laboratory accreditation provides organizations the foundation for their journey to achieving the leading laboratories recognition. Through accreditation organizations identify risks and process improvement opportunities which are foundational to the first component of leading laboratories, quality outcomes.   

Q: What are the key aspects of the Leading Laboratories program, and what impact do they have on laboratories?

A: Foundationally, organizations are accredited by The Joint Commission. They can pursue the Leading Laboratories designation for the outstanding work that they do that goes above and beyond. It is built on four components, the first of which is quality outcomes—this ensures the highest quality outcomes from the laboratory for patient safety. Then we add professional development to support laboratory professionals in developing their career within the organization. The next component is trusted leadership. It is important to create a culture of transparency, where individuals feel comfortable speaking with their leaders. 

The final component is laboratory visibility. This entails promoting the role of the laboratory within the greater health care system, among patients, and within communities. This helps people understand the impact clinical laboratories have on health care and promotes laboratory medicine as a profession to ensure a strong and resilient future workforce.