Specimen Transport Box Ready for Labs to Use

New technology predicted to make dry ice obsolete for transporting lab specimens

CEO SUMMARY: Maintaining the integrity of lab specimens from referring client to laboratory is one of the recurring headaches of the lab business. Now there’s a new product which eliminates the use of dry ice and can maintain appropriate transport temperatures for up to 96 hours. Called “Friobox,” it’s one more example of how technology developed outside healthcare can improve laboratory performance.

DRY ICE MAY BECOME a thing of the past in laboratory courier departments around the United States if distributors of a new product called “Friobox” have their way.

Friobox utilizes technology which keeps lab specimens either frozen or cool for 96 hours, without using dry ice. Originally introduced in Europe, it has only recently become available for laboratories in the United States.

THE DARK REPORT was given a demonstration of this product during the Executive War College in Cincinnati on May 8-9. It is a robust technology that has been in use in Europe for several years.

Comes In Two Sizes

Friobox comes in two types. The “positive model” will maintain specimens at 35°F–42°F for four days. Retail prices for the two-liter and five-liter sizes are $27 and $29, respectively. The “negative model” maintains specimens at – 13°F to -3°F for four days. Retail prices for the two-liter and five-liter sizes are $41 and $43, respectively.

The container is designed for reuse. Its effective life is rated at 12 round trips. Friobox eliminates the need for dry ice and improves specimen integrity during transport by airlines and other public carriers. For these reasons, it is attracting serious interest by lab executives who have had the opportunity to evaluate the product.

Developed In Europe

“Friobox was developed in Europe and is used to transport vaccines, organs, tissues, and lab specimens,” stated Bernie Ness, President of B.J. Ness Consulting Group, Ltd. and the U.S. distributor of Friobox along with Randy Miller and Jim LeClair. “The technology is certified and Friobox won the top European packaging design award last year,” he added.

Clients and readers of THE DARK REPORT are among the first to learn about Friobox. “Last month we began shipping Friobox to such laboratory companies as Thrombocare in Dallas (a coag and specialty hematology lab), Ampersand Medical in Chicago (cervical cancer screening products), Carolina Donor Services in Durham (organ transplants) and TriCore Reference Laboratories in Albuquerque,” stated Ness.

“We see two fundamental advantages to Friobox,” he continued. “First, it absolutely maintains the temperature of the specimen for a full four days. This is added protection for tissue biopsies and other specimens that are ‘irreplaceable.’

Spoiled Lab Specimens

“Most labs receive a regular percentage of shipments where the specimen was spoiled in transit—and had to call the referring physician with the bad news,” added Ness. “Consider Friobox to be the next level of protection for frozen and cooled lab specimens.

“Second, the overall cost per use of Friobox is competitive with existing packaging that relies on dry ice,” Ness observed. “The new technology allows a lab to eliminate the cost of dry ice, the added freight costs from heavier packages, and the labor involved in inventorying, handling, and packing dry ice into specimen boxes.

“The other feature which is important for laboratories is the D-5 shipping container, with about four to five pounds of dry ice, can only protect a lab specimen for two days (48 hours),” he explained. “Friobox is rated at four days (96 hours).

Delayed In Transit

“This is important protection for lab specimens, particularly during three-day holiday weekends or when weather problems delay specimens in transit,” he concluded.

THE DARK REPORT considers Friobox to be “paradigm-shifting” technology. However, as these pages have chronicled so often in the past, lab executives and pathologists are slow to accept and use new technology that lacks a track record within the lab industry.

For example, the courier department at one of the nation’s leading hospital reference labs was given a Friobox sample twelve months ago—but management never experimented with the product to verify its performance, despite its potential to virtually eliminate specimens spoiled in transit, at a cost equal or less than existing dry ice packaging.

It appears likely that lab administrators at smaller labs will adopt this product ahead of the bigger labs. With direct accountability in their organizations, they will be willing to test the product in the field and not worry about “making a wrong decision.”

However, assuming the lab industry’s early adopters demonstrate that Friobox is: 1) better technology for shipping lab specimens, and; 2) offers economic advantages that at least equal existing dry ice methodologies; then Friobox has the potential to eventually become the “standard of care” for transportation of lab specimens.

Actively Seeking Deals

Generally, THE DARK REPORT does not cover the introduction of specific commercial products. However, after seeing the demonstration of Friobox at the Executive War College and learning about some of the “luddite” reactions of prospective lab customers, we thought it would be useful to brief our clients on this product and let them watch the product introduction curve unfold for themselves.

We’ve done this before, with briefings about efforts to introduce enhanced Pap smear screening products (anyone remember PapNet?) and the new crop of multiplex testing (Luminex) and POC testing (Careside, Qualigen). After all, it’s always the marketplace which makes the ultimate determination!

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