New Step of Public Animal Health Service
National Institute of Animal Health, Department of Livestock Development

The Problem

Historically, customer service of animal disease diagnostic laboratory in Thailand was inefficient and could not respond to customers’ needs. In the past, livestock section in Thailand was largely served domestic consumption. At the present, the livestock sector has shifted to a large industry in order to respond to both domestic and export demands. Additionally, it is evident that consumer demand has increased, for high quality livestock products in terms of product safety has been strongly demanded by middle classed customers. From 2004 to 2006, the bird flu outbreak severely devastated the livestock sector in Thailand, which caused huge economic losses and human death. Consequently, consumers have lost confidence in chicken meat consumption. In addition, the fatal disease had a significant impact on the export of livestock products because importing countries mistakenly used this issue to be a trade barrier. For the reasons mentioned above, plus scientific and technological advancements, it is therefore imperative that veterinary laboratory services have to improve their efficiency and capability in order to achieve precision and accuracy of laboratory results. However, there are several hurdles for us to overcome, which include complicated data management, non-accreditation of laboratories, lack of laboratory harmonization and lack of good field customer service.

Complicated Data Management. Data flow in The National Institute of Animal Health (NIAH) consists of data entry at a sample submission unit, data checking and processing, data storage and analysis, data transfer and traceability and reporting to clients. Currently used data management at NIAH relies on personnel to enter, analyze and handle data; this often results in errors, largely due to the requirements of a large number of people, paper-based forms and lack of efficient data processing system.

Non-Accreditation of Laboratory. Laboratories at NIAH and its regional laboratory centers as well as associated administration system, had not complied with requirements for laboratory standards, resulting in inconsistency of laboratory results. Disease diagnostic results need to be precise and accurate, being classified as disease or non-disease status. Consistent laboratory procedures will enhance confidence to the customers and facilitate export of livestock products.

Lack of Laboratory Harmonization. Laboratories at NIAH and its regional laboratory centers had developed independent laboratory protocols, while quality assurance had not been practiced. Thus, harmonization of laboratory protocols was required in order to meet the same standard levels that can improve work processes and the quality of laboratory results; moreover, the customers must have greater confidence with the results received from different laboratories.

Lack of Good Field Customer Service. Interaction between laboratory staff and clients, especially farmers in rural areas, seems to be attenuated by a bureaucratic system that relies mainly on top-down policy making. Communication channels between our institute and farmers/exporters are currently minimal and not sufficient to reflect farmers’ problems and needs, mostly relying on one-way communication. For example, during the last outbreak of bird flu disease, response to the disease was slow and ineffective, causing the disease to spread widely and making its consequences extremely damaging.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
Nowadays, livestock investors, operators and farmers need to gain improved access to a better veterinary laboratory service. A creditable and rapid laboratory result can confidentially assist the livestock industry in reducing their production costs. Specifically, laboratory fully equipped with advanced technological devices can definitely help livestock farmers rapidly identify disease agents and decrease loss of livestock during emerging epidemics.
Therefore the initiative was set in order to solve the above mentioned situation by implementing new approaches for good laboratory services including new operations in data management, the establishment of International Organization for Standardization (ISO), development of laboratory harmonization and the establishment of Mobile Veterinary Rapid Response Team (MVRRT).

New Operations in Data Management. The Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) has been utilized in order to handle raw data, store, analyze and transfer processed data from sample submission unit to a reporting unit. This system is paperless, time-saving and less laborious. To implement LIMS, a Local Area Network (LAN) was established among all units such as sample submission, laboratory examination units and customer interface (epidemiology) unit.

Establishment of International Organization for Standardization (ISO). NIAH and its regional laboratory centers have presently adopted ISO/IEC 17025:2005 since 2003 and ISO 9001:2008 since 2010. The introduction of these international standards has improved our work operations and facilitated work procedures. The major consequence of this policy was the increase of acceptance from importing countries such as the European Union, Japan and the USA.

Development of Laboratory Harmonization. In order to harmonize NIAH and its regional laboratory centers’ operating system to meet the same standard levels, a laboratory network has been established. This network consists of several activities including Proficiency Testing (PT), Twinning Laboratory Program and Inter-Comparison Laboratory Networking as required by The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Establishment of Mobile Veterinary Rapid Response Team (MVRRT). NIAH, in close cooperation with its regional laboratory centers, has presently set up a mobile unit called The Mobile Veterinary Rapid Response Team (MVRRT). This mobile unit comprises of well-trained veterinarians, supporting staff and 4-wheel drives vehicles. This mobile unit works under the theme “Rapid Alert Rapid Response” making it more accessible in remote areas.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The Project entitled “New Step of Public Animal Health Service” started with an initiative originally proposed by a former director, Dr. Pornchai Chamnanpood, in 2005. Dr Pornchai, with technical and financial assistance from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommended the development of LIMS and initiated ISO system to NIAH. Since then, NIAH and its regional centers have complied with ISO/IEC 17025:2005 and in 2010, the present director, Dr. Vimol Jirathanawat introduced ISO 9001:2008 to improve NIAH’s administrative process.

Moreover, Dr. Vimol suggested a new approach for public services from laboratory organizations that aimed to facilitate work processes by diminishing time and personnel encountered in their everyday lives. The approach he introduced surpasses the existing operational processes since its establishment in 2009. Customer service has been operated by The Customer Relation Unit (Epidemiology Unit). The Project includes all personnel from executives, administrative staff, veterinarians, research scientists, technicians, etc. Executives promote the budget that project’s participants are given bonuses and rewards to encourage good customer service.

With the introduction of this project to NIAH and its regional centers, we have received positive feedback from stakeholders such as farmers, livestock operators and investors, academic institutes and private companies. The stakeholders have been actively involved in the project. Specifically they are asked to evaluate the project by completing a questionnaire and sending comments when available. Moreover, an annual meeting between the stakeholders and organizational executives is held at NIAH in order to share information between the two partners and for the executives to directly listen to the stakeholder’s problems. Also, the stakeholders are strongly encouraged to visit NIAH’s website and send their complaints through the website. Other channels to receive comments and complaints include telephone, facsimile, comment boxes etc.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The Project’s strategies are:

1)Design a new LIMS computer program. This application software and database is a data management application that consists of a high performance server, personal computers, linked by LAN cable to every unit. This data management application can facilitate data transfer among units, thereby minimizing data transferring time as compared to manual handling.

2)2.1 Plan a policy for all laboratories at NIAH and its regional laboratory centers to be accredited as ISO/IEC 17025:2005.
2.2 Promote laboratory standardization to become a regional OIE reference laboratory for South East Asia following OIE guidelines.

3)Harmonize laboratory protocols used by NIAH and its regional laboratory centers to meet the same standard levels.

4)Establish a new unit called MVRRT. This mobile unit can quickly enter remote areas especially during outbreak periods.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
In 2001,The Laboratory for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD,Department of Livestock Development entered the program to be OIE-FMD Reference Laboratory for the South East Asian region following OIE’s guidelines. Finally, this laboratory was officially declared as an OIE Reference Laboratory for FMD in 2009.

In 2002, laboratories of NIAH and its regional centers adopted ISO/IEC 17025:2005 standards and currently our laboratories are accredited ISO/IEC 17025:2005 for a total of 100 scopes including diagnostic analysis of animal and zoonotic diseases, such as rabies, bird flu, New Castle disease, foot-and-mouth disease and brucellosis.

In 2004, collaboration between NIAH and CDC was established. CDC sponsored NIAH to develop a new LIMS called Animal Health Information Program.

In 2006, a mobile unit “MVRRT” of NIAH and its regional laboratory centers was initiated. Furthermore in 2009, this mobile unit has been extended its utilization by the installation of highly advanced laboratory equipment within a specially modified vehicle known as the “Mobile Laboratory”, which was funded by the Japanese Government through OIE.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
To overcome the four obstacles, NIAH has cooperated with other organizations that assisted in several project activities.

Obstacle 1 (Complicated Data Management). In the past, laboratory data was recorded on paper. Evaluation of data, including case counting, can only be performed manually, making data analysis more complex and time consuming. With the emergence of the bird flu outbreak in 2004, manual recording of laboratory data caused more problems, because a large number of cases were received nationwide. A sophisticated database that overcomes the problem used by an overloaded amount of data and is practicable to analyze the data was required. In 2005-2006, CDC financially supported the development of LIMS at NIAH and a regional center in Pitsanulok province. In 2007, the Government of the People's Republic of China also provided funding for computer infrastructure to other six regional centers. With the new installation of this database platform, NIAH has now linked all of its regional centers, making the process of transferring information onto a compatible network easier.

Obstacle 2 (Non-Accreditation of Laboratory). Under the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 requirement, laboratory equipment needs to be calibrated and qualified. More importantly, the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 accreditation process itself requires a lot of documentary work and records. Laboratory personnel therefore need to improve their attitude, knowledge and understanding in order to manipulate this increasing amount of work.

Obstacle 3 (Lack of Laboratory Harmonization). At the initial step, five diseases including rabies, bird flu, New Castle disease, foot-and-mouth disease and brucellosis were used as a model to develop and harmonize the same laboratory protocols amongst NIAH and its regional laboratory network. The laboratory harmonization not only focuses on the procedures but also on the time required to perform the laboratory test. Result reports from different laboratories need to be harmonized so that they use the same form and wording pattern.

Obstacle 4 (Lack of Good Field Customer Service). Usually laboratory staff do not have the skill or experience relevant to field work such as disease investigation and surveillance. Therefore it is needed to improve their knowledge, attitudes and volunteer minds on field customer service. Moreover, there are few people in the laboratory who are knowledgeable and experienced enough to serve farmers in rural areas. Therefore it is necessary to train more laboratory staff so that they are well-qualified and ready to work in field situations. MVVRT, which includes field veterinarians, scientists and supporting staff, was founded to enter to remote areas in order to provide rapid services to farmers.

In addition, we encountered personnel-related problems that need to be improved. First, we have motivated and encouraged organizational personnel to acquire new knowledge and experience. Continuing study is also supported for all levels of staff so that the organization becomes a true learning organization. Second, we also have trained specialized technicians to operate high-end laboratory devices, such as a real-time polymerase chain reaction machine installed within the “Mobile Laboratory” vehicle.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The allotted budget and personnel were used to provide essential resources including as follows.

Development of LIMS. Expense for the employment of computer programmers to develop “Animal Health Information Program” (2M Baht). This expense also includes the cost of training of our staff. This computer software has helped our staff reduce work time up to approx. 50%.

ISO/IEC Accreditation of Laboratory. Cost needed for ISO accreditation process (0.5 M Baht per year). Expenditure needed for improvement of Laboratory for Foot and Mouth Disease to become a Regional Reference Laboratory for Foot and Mouth Disease in South East Asia (0.23 M Baht).

Laboratory Harmonization. Expenses used for PT & inter-laboratory comparisons and development of standard operating procedures (1 M Baht per year)

MVRRT Management. Cost for 4-wheel drive vehicles (5 pick-up trucks, 6.5 M Baht). Operation cost for “Mobile Laboratory” (micro bus) and maintenance cost for its installed laboratory equipment (15 M Baht).

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
LIMS. The existing computer program operates on an intranet-based system but the program is still not web-based. Future plans to improve the LIMS involve developing internet-based software in order for it to be accessed by broader users. In the future, farmers can also track their laboratory results on the web. Executives can retrieve real-time information needed for decision-making especially during disease outbreaks.

ISO/IEC Accreditation. Scopes currently accredited for ISO/IEC 17025:2005 do not cover all of the laboratory tests performed at NIAH and its regional laboratory centers. It is necessary to increase the number of tests to be accredited for the ISO standard following OIE guidelines.

Laboratory Harmonization. Besides the protocols for five diseases already harmonized, it is necessary to continue harmonizing the protocols for other diseases such as blood parasite diseases, bacterial infectious diseases and viral diseases. Future plans also involve the participation of laboratory harmonization by private laboratories such as the Charoen Pokphand Group and the Betagro Group.

MVRRT. The operation under the mobile veterinary service has initiated a joint collaboration between DLD officers and farmers. Practical and technical assistance is provided to farmers to enhance and improve farmers’ knowledge and experience so that they can rely on themselves to solve their own problems. However, in case of more serious problems the MVRRT is called to help solve the farmers’ problems as quickly as possible.

Other activities. Network meetings amongst stakeholder namely local DLD officers, farmers and private operators, are held on a regular basis (every 6-12 months). The meetings are aimed at all parties to fully understand their own activities.

From the success of our project, we have transferred our knowledge and experience relating to customer service to neighboring countries. Visitors from many countries have visited our institute throughout the year. The knowledge they obtained from visiting our institute can be applied to their organizations so that they can respond to customers’ needs in their own countries.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Since the launch of the Project, the attitude among our staff has changed positively. Nowadays our staffs have improved themselves to have a so-called “volunteer mind”. As a consequence, they willingly help customers to the best of their abilities. Specifically, it is apparent from the customer’s feedback from the questionnaire survey in 2011 that 95.21% of the customers are satisfied by our service.

Achievement of this project can be seen through many rewards from various awarding organizations such as “Transparent Organization Awards from Department of Livestock Development (DLD) in 2009 and 2010”, “Organizational Management Award with The 5 S Principles from DLD in 2010”, “Best Website Award from DLD in 2009” and “Winner of Outstanding of Public Service Award from Office of the Public Sector Development Commission in 2011”.

The collaboration that has been established between our staff and farmers has been strengthened. All involved partners have the same understanding in dealing with all work steps. Under the theme “Rapid Alert Rapid Response”, all network partners can quickly respond to problems relevant to animal disease control.

With the ultimate success of the Project, we are confident that we have already become a leader amongst animal disease diagnostic laboratories within the South East Asian region. For instance, the OIE Reference Laboratory Campaign and Twinning Laboratory Program that our institute has participated in, has now become a good model for many countries in the Greater Mekong Sub region (GMS).

Contact Information

Institution Name:   National Institute of Animal Health, Department of Livestock Development
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Dr. Lerdchai Chintapitaksakul
Title:   Head of Section  
Telephone/ Fax:   +(66)2 579 8909 - 19
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   50/2 Kasetklang, Phahonyothin road, Chatuchak
Postal Code:   10900
State/Province:   Bangkok
Country:   Thailand

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