Breakout Session Abstracts

Overview of a Blind Quality Control Program in a Forensic Laboratory

Presenters: Jackie Moral and Callan Hundl

HFSC implemented a blind quality control program in 2015 based on recommendations from the 2009 NAS report. This presentation will provide a summary of the blind quality control program, and how the program was designed and implemented, specifically in the toxicology and seized drugs disciplines. The presenters will share their experiences, successes, and failures, to best inform other laboratories who are interested in starting similar programs. A group Q&A will be included to better address specific hurdles that other laboratories may face.

Measure Quality Effectively to Drive Excellence

Presenter: Aimee Grimaldi, MS; Houston Forensic Science Center, 500 Jefferson, Suite 1300, Houston, TX 77002

This presentation will impact the forensic community by reimagining the definition of quality. The forensic field has historically reported production metrics such as backlog and turnaround time because those metrics are readily available in LIMS systems. Quality metrics are often subjective, qualitative and reactive. This makes it challenging to analyze quality trends and make correlations between quality and production data. Attendees will learn how to turn qualitative quality data into actionable quantitative data in order to cultivate a preventive quality culture.

The Houston Forensic Science Center initiated a lean six sigma design project to determine how the company should measure quality. To determine which quality factors should be measured the team held interview sessions with staff and then performed LSS tools to determine the requirements. The results were surprising. According to our results, audits, counting defects and conforming to standards are not the only ways our organization measures quality. The team determined that quality is also about employee engagement, professional development, continuous improvement and innovation. As new factors were identified to be critical to quality it became apparent that the team was not only measuring quality, or how the laboratory conformed to external standards, but they were measuring excellence – how we exceeded minimum standards. This analysis drove a comprehensive design that allowed disciplines to better understand areas for improvement as well as their strengths.

The comprehensive metrics were captured in our compliance software and then made visible using a dashboard platform. This allowed the data to be accessed by all staff, which is automatically analyzed and refreshed daily. This platform allows for information sharing within a discipline and across the company.

This session will provide attendees with a model to help discover factors that impact quality and how to make those factors visible. Attendees will learn the value of interviewing staff to understand how the organization defines quality and the importance of measuring all factors that are critical to quality.

Learning Objectives:
– Learn how you can discover factors that impact quality.
– Understand how to cultivate a preventive and comprehensive quality culture.
– Transform your quality data by using actionable visuals through a dashboard.

The Rest of the Iceberg: Assessment Logistics

Presenter: Sara Walker

An accreditation assessment activity is a complex process with many moving parts. While the activity itself is the ultimate goal in an assessment, it represents only the tip of the iceberg for the whole process.  The preparation before, the work during, and the remediation afterward constitutes the hidden depths that can make the difference between a smooth and low-stress assessment activity and a frantic scramble to prove compliance. This workshop will provide information on planning, resources for the two most prevalent forensics accrediting bodies, and tips and tricks to aid you in your upcoming assessment activity.

Validations and Performance Checks – Why, When, and How to do Them

Presenter: Richard Remy

This 2-hour presentation will cover the requirements of validations and performance checks as stated in ISO 17025 and ANAB requirements. You will learn the difference between a validation and a performance check and when to perform each one respectively. Discussions will be had about standard methods, non-standard methods, method validations and their plans, and performance checks of equipment. This presentation is perfect for a newly hired QA manager or an experienced QA manager looking to brush up on their knowledge.

High Performing Quality Management Systems

Presenter: Christopher Krug, David Wright

Quality assurance is a critical element of success for all modern forensic science laboratories. A highly functioning program is critical to achieving and maintaining a quality management system that allows a laboratory to prevent significant issues and produce the best science possible. An issue in one forensic laboratory affects all laboratories, so high performing programs also promote achievement across the entire forensic community. The concepts of high-performance organizations (HPO) are well developed, accepted, and applied across industries everywhere. These HPO concepts can be evaluated and incorporated broadly into the management systems of forensic science laboratories to bring about improvement. Bringing these HPO concepts (culture, relationships, and collaboration) into a laboratory’s quality assurance system specifically, however, will also have dramatic impacts to the quality operation and output of the laboratory. What does a High Performance Quality Assurance Program look like? Employees at all levels will feel empowerment and responsibility to achieving the well understood QA program vision in support of the organization’s mission. QA performance measures, carefully chosen to emphasize continuous improvement, will emphasize the desired QA culture and outcomes. Ultimately, accreditation and reaccreditation processes are just another day in the office. In this interactive session, we’ll learn from each other as we explore four key HPO topics to understand how they can be leveraged to impact a forensic science quality assurance program, and thereby the entire laboratory. After examining key HPO topics, practical implementation strategies will be discussed and practiced.

Insights into your Continuous Improvement Journey by Applying a Proven CI Maturity Model

Presenters: Philip K. Berry, Managing Director, Pyrovio, Mahindra Nath Varma, Senior Consultant, Pyrovio

Organizations in different industries and specializations have successfully used maturity models to assess both where they are and visualize the journey ahead. Last year, we introduced AFQAM participants to various models for consideration. This year, AFQAM participants will experience the actual evaluation of their organization’s Continuous Improvement (CI) journey using all 4 key Capabilities and 6 to 8 key components/Attributes. Participants will learn not only how their organization compares to the world class benchmarks but also anonymously compare with all other participants’ organizations. The CI Maturity Model will provide insights into the next steps that
participants can share with their team when they return back to their labs.

The session will alternate between reviewing together one Capability and one or two associated Components/Attributes then:

– Participants self-assess their organization’s appropriate rating on that Capability/Component/Attribute.
– Participants anonymously share their organization’s rating and comments (via app on phone or laptop).
– Together we will discuss the results and encourage organizations with higher ratings to share their unique insights.

Then, we repeat this cycle through the remaining 3 Capabilities.

Planning for approximately 15 minutes at the end of the workshop to answer any general questions.

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