LHD takes laboratory testing to new heights

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ocated on the 7th floor of Lanka Hospitals, Lanka Hospitals Diagnostics (LHD) is Sri Lanka’s first-ever reference laboratory. Recognising a need in the local healthcare market for high-quality laboratory reports, LHD was established in 2014 to provide medical laboratory services in compliance with a range of international standards. A fully owned subsidiary of Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC, LHD’s portfolio comprises of over 1,100 lab tests, including a range of tests currently not available anywhere else in the country.

Chief Executive Officer of LHD Pradeep Edward spoke to Echelon about the lab’s central functions and why you should select LHD as your laboratory services provider. Edward counts 20 years of work experience in both local and multinational companies, with 15 years in the healthcare sector, and is a past president of the Pharma Promoters Association of Sri Lanka, a past secretary of the Chamber of the Pharmaceutical industry in association with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, and the Charter President of the SLIM MBA Alumni. He is also the current President of the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing.

What was the gap you saw in the market that LHD was able to fill?
The vacuum we saw in the market at that time is the need for an internationally accredited reference laboratory that uses state-of-the-art technology. We saw a lot of Sri Lankans going overseas to get tests done, especially to countries like Singapore or India. Once we fulfilled this need, we have seen even foreign patients and expats patronizing our lab. One of our largest clientele is from the Maldives and Seychelles. A lot of expats and even locals who went out of the country for tests now come to us.

Tell us a bit about the accreditation by the College of American Pathologists (CAP). What does this mean for LHD?
We are the only CAP-accredited laboratory in the country, which is a globally renowned accreditation as the gold standard for laboratory testing. LHD was recognised with CAP accreditation after an on-site visit in April 2017. They look at many aspects of the laboratory, not just the testing process – namely, the layout of the laboratory, quality of equipment and reagents, qualified staff and much more. Safety of the staff and customers is also an important part of the inspection process. This accreditation has increased our quality of service, and the speed because of the machinery and state-of-the-art technology that we use.

What were some of the refinements LHD needed to get this accreditation?
It has been a long and arduous exercise, where LHD initially enrolled in the Proficiency Testing programme (PT programme) conducted by CAP. Through the PT programme, CAP sends test samples for the whole range of tests LHD conducts, where we test them like patient samples and send the results back to CAP. A laboratory has to participate in this programme for a minimum of 6 months before requesting for accreditation. In addition, the laboratory has to have certified documentation for all its processes and procedures, confirm all safety and security measures, and many more aspects. The equipment and reagents utilised at LHD are of the highest quality, which made the task of getting accreditation easier. Basically, all the machinery we use are European and as per CAP standards. In addition, we are the only laboratory that has five full-time consultants that ensure the whole process of laboratory testing is monitored and conducted according to CAP standards. If there is any alarming situation or red alert on a report, they will inform the hospital or the patient. The patient also has the option of meeting with our consultants for any inquiries about the report.

What standards does LHD need to maintain to live up to this accreditation? How often are you rated?
LHD has a dedicated quality control team headed by the Quality Manager. There is also a Safety Officer and Chemical Safety Officer as per CAP regulations. They are in charge of monitoring the quality of all procedures and conduct regular audits. CAP conducts an on-site accreditation bi-annually, with 4-5 American inspectors who evaluate the lab with an exhaustive checklist by observation and interacting with the staff. Every other year, the laboratory conducts a similar internal inspection process and the details are shared with CAP.

LHD also participates in the local accreditation programme conducted by the Sri Lanka Accreditation Board (SLAB). This is an annual accreditation process conducted on-site. The major difference with the two systems is that SLAB accredits only a few tests, unlike CAP which accredits all tests conducted by the lab.

Who will be LHD’s clientele? And how will they benefit from LHD’s services?
We consider all Sri Lankans and anyone visiting Sri Lanka as our customers. The general perception is that Lanka Hospitals or LHD are expensive. But the truth is we are not the most expensive lab in the market. We are very reasonably priced, and as a result, have a lot of customers. Furthermore, relying on price may mislead patients and result in a substandard report, which will cause an incorrect diagnosis and wrong medication. Ultimately, the patient will not benefit.

What we offer at LHD is a wide-ranging test menu including common, semi-specialised and specialised tests accredited by CAP, which guarantees high-quality lab reports. Most hospitals send patients overseas for specialized areas. So, this has brought a big cost benefit to the entire industry, as they can do a lot of tests with us.

What are some of the laboratory services offered by LHD?
The reliability of our reports is very high because of the close monitoring done by the full-time consultants and the processes that we follow. Providing convenience, we are the only laboratory to maintain a system of online reports. Once the laboratory has finished conducting the test, the customer gets an SMS alert, and they can view their reports by logging into the LHD website. They need not come and collect the hard copy. Patients get a username and password, which can be accessed even five years after you get the report and no matter where it was done – Colombo, Kandy, Negombo or Galle.

How has LHD grown since its inception in 2014?
There has been significant growth, year on year. With our developments, upgrading has increased further. In order to serve the Sri Lankan population better, LHD has opened up a regional laboratory in Kandy, Royal Hospital in Wellawatta and in Negombo. Several more Regional and Mini Labs are being planned in Anuradhapura, Galle and Kurunegala this year. Our presence will be seen in the international arena too. We opened a laboratory in Seychelles, and are planning to expand to Maldives this year.

Where do you see the future heading for LHD? Do you hope to introduce more tests?
Yes. There is a lot of R&D (Research and Development) going on currently. We have a separate unit working on research and development, on how we can improve the quality of our tests and on new tests. We also upgrade our technology and machinery on a regular basis, and provide technical training, both here and overseas in line with the CAP accreditation. LHD offers researchers an opportunity to work at the laboratory. As LHD is the only laboratory with international accreditation, it is in demand to provide laboratory results for international clinical trials. We at LHD are always willing to share our knowledge with trainees. Based on this, we have started offering an internship programme for students of Biomedical Sciences.

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