Executive Briefings

Improved Tools for Monitoring Specimens May Make RFID a Standard in Healthcare

The quality of any healthcare laboratory - whether it's servicing the biomedical, clinical trial and research, diagnostic or pharmaceutical community - depends on its ability to provide accurate, precise and timely results. In recent years, some labs say they have begun using RFID to automate manual processes to track human specimens and other samples, preventing loss and misidentification, assuring chain of custody, enabling quick retrieval when needed and facilitating compliance with government regulations.

In 2011, for example, the Mayo Clinic's department of laboratory medicine and pathology says it worked with software provider ODIN (now Quake Global) to develop EasySpecimen, a passive RFID system to track patient tissue samples. In 2013, the Legacy Health Good Samaritan Medical Center, in Portland, Ore., collaborated with Cerner to deploy an RFID solution to track patient tissue specimens from the point of collection in the endoscopy department to receipt at the pathology lab. Prior to using RFID, endoscopy nurses had to manually create and double-label specimen containers, and pathology lab workers had to verify the containers against paperwork before entering their receipts into the Cerner Laboratory Information System (LIS). The RFID solution integrates Quake Global's pad readers, ceiling readers and Tag Acquisition Processor (TAP) server with the Cerner LIS.

"Now, nurses provide specimen source information to the hospital's electronic medical records system, submit the order to the EMR and print an RFID label," says Dani Sensenig, pathology supervisor for Legacy Laboratory Services. Zebra Technologies' tags and printers are used in the process.

It's best practice to print the label at the point of blood collection or specimen removal, says Chris Sullivan, Zebra's global healthcare practice leader. "If you have the label applied instantaneously to the blood collection or specimen, you significantly reduce the risk of errors versus doing that as a separate work stream."

Then, nurses place the specimen container on an RFID pad in the endoscopy suite, and the reader sends a signal to the LIS that the specimen is ready for pickup. Antennas in the hallway outside the suite and outside the pathology department track the movement of the sample, which is read on another RFID pad when it arrives at the lab. "In healthcare, this workflow is a game changer," says Sam Bhatia, Cerner's director of laboratory automation.

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In 2011, for example, the Mayo Clinic's department of laboratory medicine and pathology says it worked with software provider ODIN (now Quake Global) to develop EasySpecimen, a passive RFID system to track patient tissue samples. In 2013, the Legacy Health Good Samaritan Medical Center, in Portland, Ore., collaborated with Cerner to deploy an RFID solution to track patient tissue specimens from the point of collection in the endoscopy department to receipt at the pathology lab. Prior to using RFID, endoscopy nurses had to manually create and double-label specimen containers, and pathology lab workers had to verify the containers against paperwork before entering their receipts into the Cerner Laboratory Information System (LIS). The RFID solution integrates Quake Global's pad readers, ceiling readers and Tag Acquisition Processor (TAP) server with the Cerner LIS.

"Now, nurses provide specimen source information to the hospital's electronic medical records system, submit the order to the EMR and print an RFID label," says Dani Sensenig, pathology supervisor for Legacy Laboratory Services. Zebra Technologies' tags and printers are used in the process.

It's best practice to print the label at the point of blood collection or specimen removal, says Chris Sullivan, Zebra's global healthcare practice leader. "If you have the label applied instantaneously to the blood collection or specimen, you significantly reduce the risk of errors versus doing that as a separate work stream."

Then, nurses place the specimen container on an RFID pad in the endoscopy suite, and the reader sends a signal to the LIS that the specimen is ready for pickup. Antennas in the hallway outside the suite and outside the pathology department track the movement of the sample, which is read on another RFID pad when it arrives at the lab. "In healthcare, this workflow is a game changer," says Sam Bhatia, Cerner's director of laboratory automation.

Read Full Article