It’s a simple philosophy: Know where they’re going, where they’ve been, and in what condition they’ll arrive. And it’s the foundation on which a software company and a medical center have built products for tracking laboratory specimens and supplies.
In August, the health care software company Indralok LLC, Sarasota, Fla., introduced SpecTrack, a system for tracking biopsy specimens, blood bags, and the coolers used to transport them. One year earlier, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, NC, had begun tracking blood bank coolers using software that it adapted for this purpose.
The basic technology for tracking the location of specimens and supplies has been in existence for a while, says Mayank Trivedi, president of Indralok. However, the market has been gaining momentum recently as health care organization administrators increasingly recognize the benefits of using such systems in various clinical departments. “The market is growing very, very fast,” he says.
Users access Indralok’s subscription-based system, which tracks items using radio frequency identification tags, by way of the Internet. The product works with a standard browser or smartphone. “I wanted to have a solution that can be up and running very quickly, has very low costs of entry, and can run with the existing lab system,” Trivedi says.
With SpecTrack, battery-operated RFID tags that beep are permanently affixed to coolers. Specimens, on the other hand, are tracked from point of collection to final destination using labels embedded with RFID tags. The labels are printed with a bar code using a portable bar-code printer or similar device. The RFID tags can exchange data bi-directionally with laboratory and hospital information systems, Trivedi says. And the real-time monitoring system takes into account such factors as time, temperature, and risk of spoilage.
For example, SpecTrack may receive a message from a blood bank system indicating that a unit of blood was issued. The software will then track that blood by communicating with the hospital information system. This assures that the blood will be kept at the appropriate temperature and will be used in the appropriate operating room for the appropriate patient, Trivedi says. “All that can be done in a single, integrated system.”
A GPS system that transmits signals across cellular towers can track coolers across multiple locations. Users of the system can also tag and track each specimen within a cooler individually. This function allows users to determine if a specimen is in the appropriate cooler, Trivedi explains. For example, if a specimen needs to be transported in a refrigerated cooler but is placed in a freezer, the system will send an alert in real time via e-mail, text, or fax to a chain of appropriate personnel until it gets a response stating that the message has been received.
Trivedi and a staff of 32 developers worked on the tracking software for about three years. The company has installed the product in two small reference labs, one that uses about 30 RFID tags for tracking and another that uses about 15, Trivedi says. Indralok has also started a pilot installation at a large health care system in the Midwest that will use as many as 1,500 RFID tags facilitywide.
Also making inroads is the cooler tracking system developed at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, which is expected to hit the market soon, says Ron Noel, a receiving manager in resource management and a facilitator of the system.
The product, which employs real-time location system technology, was developed to help ensure that the medical center’s $250 portable coolers used to transport blood bags were returned to the blood bank, rather than being lost or discarded, Noel says.
The coolers, which are equipped with cooling elements that last up to 10 hours, use a sensor to track how long they have been deployed. The tracking system software lists the time status of each cooler on a color-coded time-tracking board displayed on the computer monitor. Fifteen minutes before a cooler exceeds its check-out time limit, the system sends an e-mail requesting that the cooler be returned to the blood bank. If the cooler surpasses its check-out time limit, the system sends additional color-coded e-mails and blood bank staff follow up accordingly.
Since the system was introduced at Wake Forest Baptist in August 2010, no coolers have been lost, Noel says.
In conjunction with Wake Forest Baptist, Noel has created a separate company, Time Temp Trac, to market the system. The software can be adapted for use by a variety of hospital departments, including pharmacies, to make sure medications are administered at prescribed times, and food services, to monitor the temperature of food, according to a press release from Wake Forest Baptist. The medical center has filed a provisional application for a patent on the tracking system.
“Once we put it out to the masses,” says Noel, “that will determine what other new things we add on to it.”
CSI Laboratories has introduced e.Merge Reporting, a Web-based system that allows pathologists to create an e.Merge Report, a single-page consolidated patient summary.
Users combine their morphologic assessment, company branding, color images, and final diagnosis with specific results and images produced by CSI to produce a customized patient report for clinicians.
E.Merge Reporting is accessible through CSI’s e.CSI client portal.
Optum has purchased Axolotl and will market all Axolotl electronic health record and health information exchange solutions through its Optum-Insight operating unit.
OptumInsight, formerly Ingenix, will discontinue use of Axolotl’s Elysium brand name but continue to use the name Axolotl. None of Axolotl’s products or services will change as a result of the rebranding.
Sunquest Information Systems has introduced Sunquest Laboratory version 7.0.
This latest version includes an intuitive, interactive, and customizable graphical user interface that is highly compatible with touch-screen technology. Sunquest designed the interface in partnership with its clients.
Available with version 7.0 is Sunquest Laboratory Clinical Validation, a new module that automates the review of microbiology test results that require multi-level analyses or analysis by a pathologist. The module standardizes the review cycle, automatically queuing results for examination. Logical actions, such as release and redirect of specific components, individual accessions, or batches, are completed via a single mouse click. Reviewers see a composite view of results.
Sunquest Information Systems
4medica has reported that its 4medica Ambulatory Cloud Integrated Electronic Health Record version 10.4 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.
QuadraMed has launched a new version of Quantim Facility Coding to support both ICD-9 and ICD-10 code sets. With Quantim Coding v10, QuadraMed clients can test their ICD-10 interface transactions in live encounters while also using ICD-9 codes.
A dual coding approach allows health care systems to analyze comparative data between the two code sets, according to a statement from QuadraMed.
Atlas Medical recently enhanced its Atlas anatomic pathology module.
Among the functionality added to the module are customized requisitions and labels with body site location and cascading ask-at-order-entry questions.
The module delivers electronic results through Atlas’ portal or sends them directly to the physician’s electronic medical record.
Dr. Aller is director of informatics in the Department of Pathology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hal Weiner is president of Weiner Consulting Services, LLC, Florence, Ore. He can be reached at email@example.com.