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.