The Leading Laboratories Recognition Program: What It Is and Why It’s Important

By Corey Whelan - October 03, 2023

Lab professional piping

Recognition of a job well done not only acknowledges prior accomplishment, but it also leads to ever-increasing levels of achievement, public awareness, and excellence. The COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges of the past few years focused a much-needed spotlight on the essential role of the laboratory in high-quality care. The Leading Laboratories recognition program provides a new, unique opportunity to reward excellence in hospital- based laboratories, plus achieve greater laboratory visibility within the larger healthcare community, amongst patients and communities.

Since its launch, two laboratories in the United States have achieved the Leading Laboratories designation, leading the way for this prestigious recognition. Here we take a deeper look at what the Leading Laboratories pro- gram is, and why it’s important for laboratories.

What is the Leading Laboratories recognition program?

The Leading Laboratories recognition program was established through a collaboration of the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and The Joint Commission (TJC). The Program was first announced at the ASCP 2021 Annual Meeting in Boston.

At its core, Leading Laboratories is an initiative that publicly acknowledges the outstanding work of laboratories that go beyond the standard requirements for accreditation. “Laboratories that earn this recognition display a commitment to their patients and employees to provide an exceptional level of patient care through quality practices and staff development,” explains Ali Brown, MD, FASCP, Chief Medical Officer for ASCP.

Leading Laboratories is built on four pillars. To achieve this designation, laboratories must show excellence in each of these areas:

  • Elevating quality outcomes
  • Supporting professional development
  • Cultivating trusted leadership
  • Promoting laboratory visibility

What are the goals of the program?

Leading Laboratories provides a roadmap of excellence all laboratories can aspire to. “We wanted to generate some well-deserved bragging rights,” says Dr. Brown. “There are no other programs like this for laboratories. Pathologists and laboratory professionals impact almost every patient that enters the healthcare system. We want to recognize them for their hard work and highlight their contributions to high-quality healthcare.”

Supporting quality outcomes and enhancing the overall patient experience are key goals of Leading Laboratories. Dr. Brown stresses that ultimately, it is about patients, and promoting all of the qualities that enable laboratories to provide the highest level of care for each and every one of them.

Another key goal is building public and professional awareness of the pivotal role pathology and laboratory medicine plays in healthcare systems. One of the biggest challenges facing our profession today is the lack of visibility to other healthcare providers, hospital leadership, and the public. “Labs are like the electric company; we’re just expected to be there. We’re not like nurses who are highly visible at patients’ bedsides. The Leading Laboratories recognition program is a way we can make laboratories more visible,” says Heather Hurley, Executive Director, Laboratory Accreditation and Health Systems Strategic Accounts for The Joint Commission.

Along with elevated visibility comes a better understand- ing of the critical importance of highly functioning laboratories. Excellence in the laboratory elevates performance throughout a healthcare organization, enhancing its reputation and prestige.

By bringing increased awareness of the laboratory and the pathologist and laboratory professionals who work there, the Leading Laboratories program also helps sup- port future recruitment into the field. “Visibility of the profession is a problem. COVID increased awareness of the role of the laboratory, but it also increased retirements. In laboratory medicine, we relied heavily on the baby boomers. There simply aren’t enough professionals entering the field right now to take the place of those who have left,” Ms. Hurley adds.

Retainment of personnel is as important as recruitment. The value of professional development and trusted leader- ship cannot be understated and is fundamental to this goal. “Leading Laboratories highlights the ‘soft skills’ that are vital to having an active, engaged workforce,” says Dr. Brown.

Application and celebration

A high-functioning laboratory requires the support and continued contribution of every person who works there, from the medical director to the phlebotomists. For that reason, applying for a Leading Laboratories designation is designed to be a collaborative exercise taken on by the entire laboratory team as a whole.

The online process is designed to be user-friendly, respectful of time, and not overly arduous. Once started, laboratories have a six-month window to complete the application process.

The metrics a laboratory must supply as a part of the application process follow the four main pillars of the pro- gram. There is no on-site component.

Eligibility requirements for the Leading Laboratories recognition program include:

  • The laboratory must be hospital-based
  • It must be accredited by The Joint Commission under the domestic laboratory accreditation program
  • The organization must be in good standing with Joint Commission accreditation requirements

Once the laboratory receives the Leading Laboratories designation, promotional materials and support are provided to generate visibility and create excitement including media kits, certificates and decals. These materials can be used in the laboratory, throughout the entire organization, and can also be used at community health fairs, school-based career fairs, and other recruitment events. Materials and support will also be provided that can be used to notify in-house hospital executives, and for internal and community publications.

“This designation isn’t being given lightly. Once it is earned, we want the laboratory to celebrate it, and to let everyone know about it. It’s an earned honor, and a win for our entire field,” says Ms. Hurley.

To find out more about the Leading Laboratories recognition program and how to apply, visit

Corey Whelan

Patient Advocate and Freelance Writer