What is a CAPA Board? and Do you need one?
A CAPA Board is a team responsible for making sure that all CAPAs are completed on time and the actions taken are effective.
Many of the medical device companies we work with have to open a CAPA for their CAPA process because they fail to implement all the actions that were planned, they fail to implement corrective actions as scheduled, or the actions implemented fail to be effective. When we investigate any process, we typically see one of five common root causes:
- top management is not committed to the CAPA process (we can’t fix this)
- procedures and/or forms are inadequate
- people responsible do not have sufficient training
- management oversight of the process is neglected
- there are not enough resources to do the work
Creating a CAPA Board can address four of these potential root causes, but the CAPA Board needs to understand how to work effectively.
Creating a CAPA Board shows a commitment to quality
Sometimes top management only pays lip service to quality. Top management’s actions demonstrate that quality is a cost-center, and they do not view quality as contributing to the revenue of the company. Instead, quality is viewed as a “necessary evil” like death and taxes. If this describes your company, sharpen your resume and find a new job. Quality is essential to selling medical devices and quality is the responsibility of everyone in the company. The Management Representative is responsible for “ensuring promotion and awareness” (see Clause 5.5.2c of ISO 13485) of regulatory and quality system requirements. This person should be training others on how to implement best practices in quality system management. One person or one department should never be expected to do most of the work related to the quality system.
A CAPA Board should be a cross-functional team of managers that help each other maintain an effective CAPA process. This means: 1) corrections are completed on time, 2) corrective and preventive actions are completed on time, and 3) each CAPA is effective. In order to do this consistently, the CAPA Board needs to work together as a team on the CAPA process. The CAPA Board doesn’t look for someone to blame. Instead, the CAPA Board rotates their responsibilities regularly, everyone is cross-trained on the roles within the CAPA Board, and the team passes tasks from one person or department that is overloaded to another person or department that has the resources to complete the tasks effectively and on time. A professional team must anticipate holes in task coverage, and someone on the team needs to communicate to the rest of the team which hole they are addressing. You can’t wait until the coverage gap is obvious and then have everyone jump into action. If you do this, your effectiveness will resemble a soccer team of 9-year-olds.
Is your CAPA procedure the root cause?
In most companies, the problem is not the CAPA procedure. Clauses 8.5.2 and 8.5.3 of ISO 13485 are quite specific about each step of the CAPA process, and therefore it is easy to write a procedure that includes all of the required elements. The CAPA procedure is also one of the first procedures that auditors and inspectors review, and therefore any deficiencies in your procedure are usually addressed after one or two audits. If you feel that your CAPA procedure needs improvement, the above link explains how to write a better CAPA procedure. You might also consider asking everyone that is responsible for the CAPA process to provide suggestions on how to improve your procedure to streamline the process and clarify the instructions. The best approach is to have a small group (i.e. 3 to 5 people) of middle-level managers, from different departments, assigned to a CAPA Board with the responsibility of improving the CAPA process and procedure. If you have a large company, you might consider rotating people through the CAPA Board each quarter instead of having a larger group.
Does your CAPA Board have sufficient training?
Everyone can benefit from more training–even instructors will periodically engage in refresher training. Before someone is assigned to work on a CAPA, that person needs to be trained. Nobody should be assigned to a CAPA Board unless they are prepared to become an expert in the CAPA process. Some companies will only require people to sign a training record that states they read and understood the CAPA procedure. However, you must also demonstrate that your training was effective and the person is competent at the task assigned. Therefore, we recommend training people on CAPAs by training them with a CAPA training webinar and evaluating the effectiveness of the training by having each person complete a quiz. The use of a training webinar will ensure that each employee receives the same training, and the quiz will provide objective evidence that they understood the training (i.e. it was effective). If you have a CAPA Board, each person on the board should be involved in your CAPA training, and it is their responsibility to make sure people in their department have been trained effectively.
Competency is the hardest thing to demonstrate for any task. You can do this by verifying that the person has performed this task in one or more prior jobs (e.g. resume). If the person does not have evidence of working on CAPAs in their previous employment, then you will need someone that is already competent in the CAPA process to observe each person completing CAPAs and providing feedback. Once each person has demonstrated successful completion of multiple CAPAs, then the expert can attest to their competency in a training record with references to each of the successful CAPAs that were completed. If you are the person assigning a CAPA or individual tasks to people, do not assign the role of investigation, or writing the CAPA, to anyone that has not already demonstrated competency unless you are assessing them for competency. Everyone on the CAPA Board should either already be competent in the CAPA process or another expert on the CAPA Board should be in the process of training them to become a CAPA expert.
CAPA Boards are responsible for management oversight of the CAPA process
The most common method for management oversight of the CAPA process is to discuss the status of CAPAs at a Management Review. This information can be presented by the Management Representative, but assigning the presentation of CAPA status to another person on your CAPA Board will delegate some of the Management Review tasks and gives other people practice at presenting to a group. Some companies only conduct a Management Review once per year, but this makes it impossible to review CAPAs that were initiated immediately after a Management Review unless the CAPA takes more than a year to implement. Even if your company conducts quarterly Management Reviews, the review of CAPA status during a Management Review should focus on the most important issues rather than discuss every CAPA in detail. The impact on safety, the impact on product performance, and the economic impact of a specific CAPA are all criteria for deciding which CAPAs to discuss during a Management Review.
The CAPA Board needs a metric or metrics for monitoring the effectiveness of the CAPA process. The simplest metric is to monitor the average aging of CAPAs. If that average is steadily rising week after week, then new CAPAs are not being initiated, and existing CAPAs are not being closed. You can also measure the time to write a CAPA plan and the time to perform an investigation or monitor the on-time completion of tasks. The most important thing is for someone to take action when these metrics are not aligned with your quality objectives for the CAPA process. Taking action after 90 days of neglect is not good enough. You need to be monitoring the CAPA process weekly, and you need to take action proactively. Therefore, your CAPA Board needs to meet weekly and you need to show evidence in your CAPA records of what actions were taken by the CAPA Board.
Who should be assigned to the CAPA Board?
Top management does not need to be directly involved in the CAPA Board. Top management already reviews the status of CAPAs during Management Reviews. In a small company (i.e. < 20 people) you might have no choice but to have the same people that are assigned to your CAPA Board also be members of top management. As your company gets larger, you should assign middle-level managers and people that are new to management as members of the CAPA Board. Participating in the CAPA Board will teach those managers to work together as a team to achieve shared company goals and to persuade their peers to help them. The experience of working on a CAPA Board will also expose less experienced managers to other departments outside of their expertise. Ideally, participation in the CAPA Board will build friendships between peers that might not speak to one another. Each CAPA represents a team-building opportunity. The team needs to find a way to pool its resources to complete CAPAs on time and effectively. It is also important to rotate the assignment to the CAPA Board so that eventually all of your middle-level managers are trained in the CAPA process and each of them has been evaluated on their demonstration of team leadership and effectiveness in working with peers cooperatively. In large companies, it is common to assign one member of top management to the CAPA Board to show that top management is supportive of the CAPA process and to provide authorization for additional resources and funding for actions when needed. The top management representative should also be rotated to make sure that all of the top management remains competent in the CAPA process.
How does the CAPA Board manage the CAPA process?
The CAPA Board should never be blaming an individual or department for the lack of CAPA success. The CAPA Board should be anticipating when a CAPA is falling behind schedule or might not be as effective as it should be. Nobody on the team should be afraid to voice their opinion or to make a suggestion. Each member of the team has the responsibility of asking for help when they need it and asking for help as early as possible. The CAPA assignments should be shared between the team members, and one person should be responsible for chairing the meetings. If everyone is experienced in participating in CAPA Boards, then the role of the chairperson can be rotated each week. If one or more team members are inexperienced, the person on the CAPA Board assigned to training them should be teaching them how to participate in the meetings and prepare them for acting as chairperson.
Every CAPA Board meeting should have a planned agenda and meeting minutes. Every open CAPA should be discussed during the meeting, but the amount of time devoted to each CAPA should be adjusted for the risk of the CAPA failing to be completed on time or failing to be effective. If a CAPA is going smoothly, the discussion might only last seconds. Any discussion or actions planned that are specific to a CAPA should be documented in the individual CAPA record as well as the meeting minutes. This will ensure that the CAPA records are maintained as required by the ISO 13485 standard and the regulations.
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