So you’ve decided you want to get NATA Medical Testing accreditation for your laboratory. If you don’t need Medicare approval, refer to the normal accreditation processes for ISO 17025. If you do need Medicare approval, the process is a bit different and requires the following steps:
Step 1 – Research
Decide which tests (and methods) your laboratory will need to offer (‘scope of accreditation’). Research this with the clinicians who will be using your service. What patient groups are they seeing? How will they be using the test results? You can find copies of other labs’ scopes of accreditation for reference in the NATA Directory.
Now contact NATA and tell them that you want to get accreditation. They will guide you to where the accreditation requirements you need can be found and they can give you a cost estimate too.
Once you have copies of all of the accreditation documents, you are in for some serious study. Read through all these documents and think about how your laboratory meets the criteria.
Step 2 – Develop your technical and management systems
Develop any processes or procedures that are missing from your system, with the focus on any technical and training issues that need work. Make sure you have all of the equipment needed and that your laboratory is enrolled in all of the relevant external quality assurance programs.
Step 3- NATA Advisory
Contact NATA to ask them to come and do an Advisory Visit. They will ask you to put some specific things in writing related to scope, facilities, staff, equipment and QAPs. At the advisory NATA will give you feedback on your quality system and any obvious gaps in the technical operations. It is also a good opportunity for you to ask questions about the accreditation criteria and how to apply them in your laboratory.
If all is well, after this visit you will pay your application fee and NATA will prepare the report for Medicare so that you can commence claiming Medicare benefits.
Step 4 – NATA Assessment
About 4-5 months after the advisory visit NATA will arrange an assessment. This assessment will be far more technical in focus than the advisory visit, as at least two volunteer assessors from similar laboratories will review the technical aspects of your laboratory. The NATA auditor will review the quality system in detail.
Step 5 – Post Assessment
NATA will leave you with a detailed assessment report, including non-conformances. These ALL need to be addressed before NATA grants you accreditation. Sometimes this stage can become drawn out if there are misunderstandings or disagreements. However, as you are required to have Medicare approval as well, you will be aiming to address any non-conformances as quickly and effectively as possible.
Step 6 – Accreditation
Once all of the issues raised at the assessment have been addressed, NATA can send a further report to Medicare to ensure that the Medicare approval continues.
NATA will also send you a certificate of accreditation that you can proudly display in the foyer. You can start issuing NATA-endorsed test reports and using the NATA logo in your marketing materials from the date of accreditation.
No you don’t get to just sit back and relax after all that! NATA returns on a regular basis to re-assess your laboratory and quality system. NATA calls this the ‘surveillance program’. The surveillance program schedule for medical laboratories is:
Year 0 – Full technical assessment
Year 1 – On-line assessment
Year 2 – Surveillance visit
Year 3 – On-line assessment
Year 4 – Full technical assessment
The surveillance visit is conducted by a NATA staff member only, so it has less of a technical focus.
Find out more about NATA’s ISO 15189 accreditation process.