WQC Y2K: Plans, Priorities, and Predicaments
The new millenium brought many changes for Westgard QC. Dr. Westgard explains all the new features, products and services that from this website and the company. There are plans, priorities and predicaments. We want you to know what we're up to, and we'd love to hear what you think.
If you're reading this, your computer and our website have both survived the Y2K scare. That's the good news! The bad news is that we now have to get serious about the new year and what we want to accomplish.
First, let me say thank you for your support this past year! We truly appreciate your gracious and enthusiastic reception at meetings in Stockholm, New Orleans, Antwerp, San Paulo, Portland, and Mobile. The interest in our products and services has been growing throughout 1999. Our "back to basics" quality training series is being very well-received, both in Internet and hardcopy formats. CLS programs have begun using these materials in both undergraduate and master's courses. Laboratories are beginning to utilize our multirule QC training materials for inservice training. Our website continues to show increasing activity, particularly the Internet calculation and plotting tools.
We're looking forward to a great year 2000! Here's a preview of Westgard QC's plans and priorities. Given that we're a very small company with limited resources, there also are some predicaments that we must face in the coming year.
WQC will continue to focus on tools, technology, and training for laboratory management. We will provide improvements in all these areas during the year 2000.
- A new Internet training course in Basic Method Validation is available from ASCLS and AACC. This course is approved for PACE and ACCENT credits. It features our suite of Internet MV tools that support statistical calculations and provide graphic displays of the data from method validation experiments. A hardcopy manual is also available for those of you who prefer that format.
- A new "Westgard Rules" Minicourse is also available now. This course is approved for PACE and ACCENT credits. This minicourse makes use of some new interactive QC training tools that allow you to practice interpreting QC data and actually develop proficiency in applying different QC rules. The course also includes interactive quizzes that give you immediate feedback on your understanding of the materials. It represents our most interactive training course and demonstrates the real advantages of Internet training over other media. It will be great for laboratory in-service training for QC.
- A new course on Quality Management and Design for Analytical Systems will be available by mid-year. This course replaces our original Internet course on Quality Control Planning. The new course focuses more on the practical aspects of "doing" quality planning. We also will provide a new set of interactive tools that will help you perform quality planning right on the Internet.
- Additional training courses are in the planning stage and will be announced when the production schedules are set. We expect to broaden our coverage of laboratory management topics in the future.
- A new computer program - Westgard QC Rule Validator - will be introduced mid-year. This program will offer advanced capabilities for QC selection and design, including consideration of multiple decision levels, analytical performance at each level, additional quality requirements (European biologic goals), multi-stage QC designs, and Average of Normals patient data QC designs. Owners of QC Validator 2.0 will be eligible for upgrades at a reduced cost.
- A QC Rule Validator engine will also be available based on the new Validator program. This engine can be embedded in other software to add the capability of automatic QC selection to other quality control programs. The engine can be customized to implement the QC procedures available in other manufacturer's QC charting software.
The development and delivery of these new products and services will require that we prioritize our efforts.
- The Internet will be our major focus for delivering education and training. We will continue to provide hardcopy manuals for our "back to basics" series of courses, such as our Basic QC Practices and Basic Method Validation manuals. Basic Quality Planning will be the next in this series.
- The Westgard website will move to a new provider and new server to better support interactive Internet calculation and graphing tools. Some of you will recall the downtime in September-October with our calculator tools. These tools have already been moved to a new Internet provider because of the earlier problems. The rest of the materials are being testing on the new server now. Once the change is made, you won't know the difference - you'll still access the website with the same URL - http://www.westgard.com.
- E-commerce will be established on the new website to support online ordering of WQC products and enrollment in training courses. We will continue to take orders via fax, mail, and telephone, but we expect that more and more of these transactions will take place directly on the Internet in the next year.
There will also be some changes that may cause you some consternation, however, in the long run, we believe these changes will allow WQC to serve you better.
- A new logo is a minor change. During 1999, the incorporation of WQC was moved from the state of Maine to the state of Wisconsin. This change required that we have a new name for the relocated company, now officially called Westgard QC, Inc. The new logo reflects the change in name and also adds a distinctive graphic - the "quality control W" - to symbolize our origin and focus on quality management. When you see this logo being used by other manufacturers, you will know they are an official provider or distributor of our tools, technology, and training.
- A membership category for access to certain materials on the website will be a major change. This is necessary because of the increasing costs for maintaining our website and developing new educational and training materials. We will still provide a substantial set of materials that are public and free to users, but the interactive Internet tools and the organized presentation of the training materials via reviews, minicourse, and CE courses will be available through a website membership. We're interested in hearing from you about what you'd like to see in our membership area.
Our vision of a totally automated QC process will be achievable in the near future. Just as total laboratory automation is providing improved laboratory analyses at reduced costs, a totally automated QC process will provide the most cost-effective management of analytical testing processes. Automated QC technology is necessary to improve quality management and guarantee that laboratory test results are correct.
An automated QC process will provide the QC appropriate for the quality required for each diagnostic test and the performance observed for the method in use in your laboratory. You will define the quality that is needed. The automated QC process will assure that quality is achieved. Our QC Validator technology makes it possible. Our Internet training technology will support and facilitate its implementation.
Our New Year's resolution for the year 2000 is to make the automatic QC process a reality! We are committed to accomplishing this by working with you as individual laboratory scientists, as healthcare laboratories, and as manufacturers. The year 2000 should be a breakthrough year for establishing the next generation quality management system. Together we can make it happen!
James O. Westgard, PhD, is a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison. He also is president of Westgard QC, Inc., (Madison, Wis.) which provides tools, technology, and training for laboratory quality management.