Refinements for AIHA-LAP
Feedback Focuses on Need for Marketing, Communications, and Training BY CHERYL O. MORTON
In 2015, AIHA Laboratory Accreditation Programs, LLC facilitated several focus group meetings with technical experts in the laboratory accreditation arena to get their input on how AIHA-LAP could develop different business practices and new accreditation programs to complement its laboratory accreditation portfolio. The outcome of the project was the identification of specific business improvement and development opportunities for AIHA-LAP in both the short and long term.
We want to be sure that we keep our laboratories and all stakeholders informed about what we are doing and that we are able to “tell our own story” about the importance of our accredited laboratories.
It was a bit of a surprise to me and the AIHA-LAP’s Strategic Advisory Group to learn that the majority of the improvement opportunities focused not on business operations or accreditation policies but more on marketing, communications, and education. Participants in the focus group told us that AIHA-LAP needs to:
  • improve its branding, since AIHA-LAP is not well known outside of AIHA circles;
  • better explain the services offered (like pre-assessments or expedited assessment) and new AIHA-LAP programs;
  • better explain AIHA-LAP’s international recognition status and its value to accredited laboratories, their customers, and other stakeholders;
  • promote the use of accredited laboratories with AIHA members and regulators; and
  • offer more training to its accredited laboratories.
Armed with that information and receiving immediate help in the way of financial resources and dedicated staff from the AIHA Marketing Team, AIHA-LAP started to quickly implement a number of changes to refresh its brand and address the issues identified by the focus groups. Our marketing experts developed a marketing plan and strategy that include but are not limited to the following steps: improving the website, re-instituting the AIHA-LAP e-newsletter, using more social media, and developing a training platform at AIHce.
IMPROVING THE WEBSITE The AIHA-LAP website—which is separate from the AIHA website—is our most prominent interface with our laboratories. Our accredited laboratories know that they can rely on the AIHA-LAP website to obtain important policies and forms as well as updates about new policies when they are released. Our website is also the place where customers of accredited laboratories can determine whether a laboratory is accredited, learn more about laboratories’ scopes of accreditation, and see accreditation certificates to ensure that the right laboratory is selected for testing. 
But our research and focus-group feedback told us that the website should also be a place where regulators and other stakeholders that rely on accredited test results can learn about more specific analytes covered by AIHA-LAP accreditation. Also, our focus groups told us that the website should provide more information on the value of AIHA-LAP accreditation and our international recognition efforts. Our Marketing Team started working as early as a year ago on expanding the website content and making several other improvements:
Look and feel. We changed the look and feel of the site late in 2015 to make it more attractive and easier to find information on specific programs. The website now includes a short video about the accreditation process and our international recognition logos. More importantly, we made changes to the website to promote the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) Mutual Recognition Arrangement with information about World Accreditation Day; the public assurance website, which shares case studies about the value of conformity assessment); and links to informational brochures and documents available from ILAC.
News feed. Our new website now features a news feed that allows us to continuously update our laboratories and stakeholders about important developments from policies being released for comment to announcements about new services and programs. 
Upcoming features. We are now working with a new vendor to upgrade our data management system, which interfaces with the website, to include not only instrumentation and analytical test methods for each accredited laboratory but information about analytes that can be tested. This will allow accredited laboratories and their customers to quickly find the best laboratories for their testing needs. More importantly, our labs will be able to submit their accreditation applications and associated documentation directly to us through our online portal.
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CHERYL O. MORTON is managing director of AIHA-LAP. 
She can be reached at (703) 846-0789 or cmorton@aiha.org.
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