On September 1st, we had the privilege to sit down with Qualtrax Solutions Engineer, Tim Akin, to discuss one of the most common challenges for labs today – how to take a lab from paper-based to paperless.
Though this blog will provide a recap of Tim’s webinar, we encourage you to watch the full video here.
Before joining Qualtrax as trainer, Tim worked as a forensic chemist for two different labs that used Qualtrax in order to achieve ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation. Tim loves a challenge and he loves change which makes him a huge proponent of going paperless and innovating within the lab by using a quality management system like Qualtrax.
Knowing that everyone is in a different stage of their paperless journey, we are going to discuss three key takeaways: the when, why and how.
First off, there are many advantages to having an electronic quality management system(eQMS). You can access them securely anywhere, which means you can work from anywhere. With COVID-19 presenting many challenges for labs, an eQMS allows work to be done outside of a physical location.
Additionally, remote assessments are becoming a bigger reality, so having an effective system where you can demonstrate compliance is essential.
But the “why” of going paperless may not always be so clear. You may have been directed to go paperless by your management team, or you may want to go paperless but you’re meeting resistance from your organization.
In these situations, it’s important to pay attention to how small changes can relieve that burden and make things easier.
No matter where you are on the journey to paperless, one of the best exercises that Tim proposes is to start tracking all of the quality activities you’re asked to perform and how long they take. So, how often are you being asked for signatures, to track down a record or prepare for an audit?
Let’s say that you’re taking weeks to prepare for an audit and, when you look at your log, you realize that you’ve spent the majority of your time tracking down records. Here, you can easily see where your inefficiencies are and where a good place to start would be.
Honestly, there isn’t a clear cut answer as to when is the best time for each lab to make this transition.
But if your system isn’t working, anytime is a good time to change it.
There’s never going to be a perfect time when you’ll be free of compliance pressure, able to stop everything you’re doing to dedicate time to this project, and your quality system is always changing – as it should be. So just consider this paperless process as part of natural change within your lab.
Every day is a good day, but know your limitations and set realistic goals. That’s important for you, your team and your organization.
You won’t get a lab that’s been paper-based for 20 years into an electronic system in a week – that’s impossible.
Let’s need to start at the end. This means asking yourself what you want and need to get out of your eQMS.
Second, you need to get buy in from your organization’s leadership. Oftentimes, we see labs fail to implement because the choice to add an electronic system was decided for them. Even if the system is incredible, if no one uses it, you’re not gaining anything.
Finally, successful transitions always dedicate a champion and dedicate resources. Make sure you bring in someone who can be the champion and take on this project. Not taking this step could lead to implementing an unused system.
Document control is the absolute best place to start when taking on a paperless project. You get a lot of immediate payoff here, mostly through controlled access to policies and procedures.
With Qualtrax, you’re always going to get the current published version. So in the example of a safety manual, you can digitize it and have the current version available on the cloud for you and your team. This is a win because you don’t have to worry about manualy archiving or manual revising this essential document.
Within each document, you can even run reports to see key document details like who has edited or approved the documents, what changes have been made, and what previous versions of this document looked like in the past.
Document control is one strategy for showing assessors that the policies and procedures you’ve put in place are being met.
To begin with, you need to assess what documents you have and what will be going with you when you transition to a new system. For some of our customers, they will start fresh in their new system, while others will digitize everything from the past and incorporate it in the new system. This choice is yours and is something you need to determine for your lab!
You’ll also need to think critically about where your current system falls short. A great way to find this out is by asking yourself where your lab often falls short during audits. For example, what do you have trouble demonstrating when working with an auditor?
Some people struggle to ask for help, but it’s another essential part of making this transition easier. If you decide that Qualtrax is the right eQMS for you, then this is even easier because we work with you each step of the way. We’re even able to use what we’ve learned from other customers to help your transition go as smoothly as possible. But in general, don’t be afraid to ask other colleagues and industry professionals who have done this before! Their expertise will be invaluable.
Though we’ve gone through a lot about the why, how and when of an eQMS, there are few things that are absolutely essential to note.
Your system should work for you when you need it the most.
An eQMS is built for the end goal – compliance.
That said, it will only work if you and your team actually use it.
You have to set realistic goals.
And sometimes, you have to think outside the box to achieve your goals.
I hope this has been helpful as you explore going paperless. Like I said at the beginning, our Solutions Engineer, Tim Akin did an amazing job presenting on this topic and you can view the full webinar here. Watch until the end when he answers questions from others undertaking the same challenge. If you’re interested in learning more about how Qualtrax can help your lab go paperless, please reach out! We’d be happy to give you a demo of the product and answer any question you may have.