Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories : The Test of Quality

Phoebe Harper Felix Revell
By Phoebe Harper  - Editorial Director Felix Revell  - Head of Projects

We unpack the importance of education and vendor partnerships with Michael Baron, Executive Director at Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories, as the company progresses to become ISO15189 certified.

INTRODUCTION

‘’The focus on providing for the best care of the patient is our primary driving goal.” 

The opening gambit of Michael Baron, Executive Director at Wisconsin Diagnostics Laboratories (WDL), encapsulates the people-centric mission that runs through the core of the clinical and anatomical pathology laboratory services provider. 

A clinical laboratory with a team of 450 members, WDL is a subsidiary of the Milwaukee-based organization Froedtert Health and represents the central laboratory for its parent company’s health system. Currently, WDL services more than 40 hospitals, 900 long-term care facilities, and 200 physician practices across Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.  

“We provide an extensive test menu to meet the many testing needs of our customer base,” Baron continues. Currently, WDL is striving to achieve ISO15189 certification by early 2023, as a reflection of its overarching commitment to providing the highest quality of testing services.  

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STRENGTH IN PEOPLE 

This quality of service extends not just to the laboratory itself but also to the standards that WDL holds itself to in its relationships with clients. Indeed, Baron cites the company’s “strong” client services team as a key differentiator at WDL, in providing an avenue for all customers to discuss any inquiries regarding their individual testing needs with a staff member. 

Equally as important is WDL’s emphasis on providing a rewarding, comfortable and empowering workplace for its own people.  

“The focus on teamwork and meeting team member well-being is paramount to WDL’s success,” affirms Baron. 

As such, the company seeks to create a working environment where employees look forward to coming to the laboratory to work. WDL then leverages this reputation as a useful recruitment tool in guaranteeing a sustainable workforce, alongside representing the company at various job fairs, university events and by presenting at the ASCLS conference.  

“We are hiring the best qualified NCT (non-certified tech) candidates who have demonstrated good teamwork, flexibility, and an ability to meet the challenges of a high-volume laboratory,” he says, adding that WDL is currently looking to further develop the role of a laboratory assistant to be incorporated into its operations.  

“We are committed to hiring the best team members and dedicated to growing their skills, as each team member has a developmental plan.” 

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UNLOCKING EDUCATION 

The developmental plans assigned to individual members of staff embody how WDL prioritizes opportunities for education and training.  

Baron’s own background highlights the myriad opportunities that can be unlocked through the right education, as he began to pursue a career in clinical laboratories in 1991 after exiting the US Army. At the time, the Rockford Memorial Hospital in Illinois offered an opportunity for Baron to join their clinical chemistry laboratory.  

“They agreed to train me on the job and provide classroom instructions with the chemistry lab Medical Director as my instructor. I was excited at the time to gain employment where I could help hospital patients and have an opportunity to grow the clinical laboratory,” he recalls. 

After five years at Rockford, during which time Baron excelled and undertook his Chemistry ASCP Certification Exam, he pursued his ambitions for leadership roles in clinical laboratories, which soon followed at SmithKline Beecham Clinical Laboratories where he eventually progressed to the position of Laboratory Director.  

Today, as Executive Director of Operations at WDL, his responsibilities comprise chemistry, toxicology, hematology, coagulation, microbiology/molecular, anatomic pathology, flow cytometry and the cytogenic departments.  

WDL’s own education initiatives remain an important area of focus for the years ahead, by developing its non-certified tech program, apprentice program and establishing a training program for the aforementioned laboratory assistant role.  

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PRIDE IN PARTNERSHIPS 

Partnerships are a key avenue used by WDL to develop opportunities for education, adopting an alternative approach to training clinical laboratory team members. This is evidenced by the Clinical Laboratory Scientist Apprenticeship program with Milwaukee Area Technical College and the Department of Workforce Development’s Wisconsin Apprenticeship program, both of which were initiated by WDL.  

Baron shares that the company is now looking to enter into an education agreement with its key business partner – Roche – to develop clinical laboratory education solutions for other facilities.  

“Roche recognized our progressive approach towards supporting non-certified technical staff to gain necessary classroom education to support their development and ultimately achieve ASCP certification,” he says.  

Sharing a platinum account agreement, Roche is an instrumental partner in providing chemistry and immunology testing platforms for WDL’s entire laboratory testing system, including its large automation line, associated instrumentation, and the scaled instrument platform to meet the testing needs of each laboratory. 

This partnership rose to the fore during the turbulence and disruption of the recent pandemic, as Roche supplied the 6800 model molecular instrument that supported the completion of approximately 1,200 COVID-19 tests per day of the 5,000+ tests performed at the peak of testing.  

“Roche was a key partner in providing COVID-19 testing supplies to help support our testing needs. Further, they maintained the supplies for the chemistry systems without disruption to testing requirements,” shares Baron.  

Thanks to its robust relationships with vendor partners, WDL was able to urgently respond to the testing challenge and exercise the lab’s high-volume capacity to provide a 24-hour turnaround from the time of arrival at the lab with a reliable outcome. 

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A HEALTHY FUTURE 

In retaining its status as a clinical laboratory founded on quality service, WDL had recently undergone a major remodeling of its core lab area to improve workflow efficiency.  

“The core lab had its first remodelling facelift, which has allowed additional instrument replacement and the improved efficiency with work cells by testing speciality,” Baron elaborates. “The anatomic pathology lab has followed suit, where we have added work stations and gained the same workflow efficiencies with flexibility of the workspace.” 

This remodeling is set to continue across the microbiology and molecular laboratory space into the years ahead, alongside the implementation of an electronic inventory system to further improve the efficiency of lab supply ordering and maintenance.  

By so doing, WDL continues to establish a favorable workplace that combines the welfare of its workforce with an uncompromising commitment to the quality of its testing services on behalf of all clients.  

Baron draws to a close by returning to the humanitarian concern for quality care that lies at the heart of all clinical laboratories.  

“A clinical laboratory career allows one to support patient care, which brings much pride and satisfaction.” 

Michael Baron, Executive Director: “WDL has initiated the process to become ISO15189 certified, which further demonstrates our commitment towards providing high quality testing. We aim to achieve certification in early 2023. This will include the redesign of our quality management system, refining our change management program, and establishing a robust CAPA. The drive to provide the highest quality of services is a top focus for us as we strive to achieve ISO15189 certification.” 

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