College of American Pathologists
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July 2011

Raymond D. Aller, MD
Hal Weiner

Autonomous mobile laboratory robot shows its mettle and moxie Autonomous mobile laboratory robot shows its mettle and moxie

Staff at CentraCare Laboratory Services are impressed, and sometimes even charmed, by one hard-working employee. He delivers specimens quickly and efficiently to the various departments of the laboratory, doesn’t complain about his workload, and is polite to staff. But, like most of us, he needs to stop and recharge his battery now and then. “He” is a 3-foot-tall autonomous mobile robot named SpeciMinder.

Unlike other automated transport systems that travel along wire or tape embedded in the floor, SpeciMinder, which is marketed by Switzerland-based Swisslog, travels on preprogrammed pathways that have been mapped into its internal software, explains Jeff Barber, vehicle systems product manager for Swisslog’s Denver-based health care solutions division. The robot can also be programmed to communicate with wireless devices for automatically opening doors, as well as with call buttons and devices that announce its arrival.

SpeciMinder, which travels at an average walking speed, can easily maneuver through work spaces, detecting obstacles, including people, and moving around them to deliver specimens and other items, Barber says. The machine can also rotate 180 degrees and pass through doorways as narrow as 27 inches.

CentraCare Laboratory Services, part of the St. Cloud, Minn.-based CentraCare Health System, purchased the robot, which it named Rocky, to help improve test turnaround times, which were lagging as test volume increased, says Cindy Johnson, CentraCare’s director of laboratory operations. “Rocky has really become a part of our team,” adds Johnson, noting how quickly the machine was assimilated into the workflow of the lab.

The robot has helped increase productivity, says Jeremy Angell, CentraCare’s coordinator of laboratory support services. Now staff can focus on their functions at the workstation. “They no longer have to worry about stepping away from the station to do the specimen delivery or to get specimens,” he says.

Florida Hospital Orlando installed SpeciMinder in its central laboratory in April. The robot, which staff call Robbie, reduces workload by running specimens from the central receiving area to various parts of the lab on an as-needed basis rather than in batches, says Patrick O’Sullivan, the hospital’s laboratory operations director. “Instead of somebody waiting to get a whole pile of samples to bring over to a department and then overloading them, Robbie can bring three or four samples because it’s not a big deal for him to make a trip,” he says.

SpeciMinder, introduced by Swisslog in 2010, has been installed at eight hospitals and is scheduled for two additional installations. As the robot evolved, a version with a transport bin that locks was developed. With this version of the robot, authorized personnel must hold up an identification badge to a reader on the machine to gain access to the contents of the locked bin. This feature, says Barber, provides added security for hospitalwide transport of laboratory specimens, blood products, equipment, medicine, and medical-surgical supplies.

Another feature of the robot, and one that many people find endearing, is its ability to “talk up a storm,” Barber says. For example, he continues, when arriving at its destination, the robot might say, “I have a delivery for urinalysis.” But it can also be playful, asking about the weather or local sports teams when it’s at the docking station getting its battery recharged.

SpeciMinder has sophisticated verbal capability, Barber says. “It can play any WAV [audio] file during its travels or when it arrives at a location. People love that aspect of it.”

Typenex Medical marketing system for transfusion safety Typenex Medical marketing system for transfusion safety

Typenex Medical has introduced FinalCheck, a mechanical barrier system that serves as an additional safeguard in recipient verification immediately before transfusion.

Users of FinalCheck affix a wrist tab label to the patient’s admissions band at the time of a specimen draw. A perforated portion of the label is placed on the specimen tube. The wrist tab label and specimen tube label display the same unique, four-character code, which blood bank staff enter into the laboratory information system when they receive the specimen.

To issue a blood component to that patient, blood bank staff retrieve the code from the LIS and use it to set a combination lock on FinalCheck. The cross-matched unit is then placed in a bag and the lock applied to the top of the bag. The locked unit is sent to the transfusionist, who accesses the blood by entering the combination to the lock from the patient’s wristband.

Typenex Medical

VitalWare introduces ICD-10 vendor-readiness dashboard VitalWare introduces ICD-10 vendor-readiness dashboard

VitalWare has introduced the VitalView platform, a dashboard that collects, analyzes, and reports which vendors are meeting ICD-10 timelines and requirements.

“We were surprised to learn that vendors are at wildly different stages of ICD-10 preparedness, with varying degrees of readiness, not only by company, but within their product suites,” says Kerry Martin, CEO of VitalWare.

VitalView identifies which vendor software has a measurable impact on a hospital’s ICD-10 planning based on its function within the hospital and the extent of its use; highlights products that have a high impact but low ICD-10 readiness; and sends automatic alerts to ICD-10 team members when vendor or product milestones have been missed, reached, or are at risk of being missed.


Orchard Software lab information system certified as EHR module Orchard Software lab information system certified as EHR module

Orchard Software has reported that its Orchard Harvest laboratory information system version 8.5 has been certified as an electronic health record module by the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology, an Office of the National Coordinator Authorized Testing and Certification Body.

By receiving ONC-ATCB 2011/2012 certification, the software is deemed capable of enabling providers to meet stage one meaningful use requirements of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Orchard Software

Psyche updates Web-based laboratory outreach module Psyche updates Web-based laboratory outreach module

Psyche Systems is marketing e.Outreach version 2, the latest release of its Web-based outreach module for automatically ordering lab tests and receiving test results and reports.

Among the features of this updated version of e.Outreach are mobile and handheld access, e-mail notification, location-based requisition rules, display of case documents with result reports, electronic signatures for outreach requisitions, and customizable anatomic pathology ask-at-order-entry questions.

Psyche Systems Corp.

Halfpenny partners with extension center on laboratory hub Halfpenny partners with extension center on laboratory hub

Halfpenny Technologies has entered into a demonstration project for a lab hub with Health Sciences South Carolina, a statewide collaborative of universities and health care systems. The lab hub is intended to facilitate seamless clinical data exchange between members of the Center for Information Technology Implementation Assistance in South Carolina, the state’s regional extension center.

Halfpenny initially will make its vendor-neutral lab hub accessible to a select group of the regional extension center’s constituents, including LabCorp, Solstas, and other reference laboratories, as well as to hospitals, physician practices, and clinics.

The lab hub is intended to help health care facilities meet meaningful use requirements “while minimizing the IT resource demands on hospitals and laboratory participants,” says Jay Moskowitz, president and CEO of Health Sciences South Carolina.

Halfpenny Technologies

Health care system purchases Sunquest lab solutions suite Health care system purchases Sunquest lab solutions suite

Sunquest Information Systems has signed a contract with Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System to provide the health care system with its laboratory solutions suite.

Sunquest will install its Sunquest Laboratory lab information system, Sunquest Laboratory SMART for specimen routing and tracking, Sunquest CoPathPlus anatomic pathology system, Sunquest Laboratory Blood Bank and Blood Donor, Sunquest Collection Manager for positive patient identification, Sunquest Meaningful Use certified module, and Sunquest Physician Portal for Web-based ordering and resulting.

Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System has 11 hospitals and four standalone clinics in California, Colorado, Kansas, and Montana.

Sunquest Information Systems

Dr. Aller is director of informatics in the Department of Pathology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. He can be reached at Hal Weiner is president of Weiner Consulting Services, LLC, Florence, Ore. He can be reached at