Lab Specimen Transport Eliminates Need for Ice

Technology solution contributes more consistency when shipping units of blood

CEO SUMMARY: Because of its unique design and reliability, a new product for transporting laboratory specimens and units of blood without the use of ice and dry ice is gaining favor with innovative laboratories across the country. Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States uses this ice-free specimen transport solution to move units of blood from the blood bank out to various sites and says the benefits are more consistency and better quality in the movement of blood units.

THERE’S A NEW TECHNOLOGY gaining favor with innovative laboratories that eliminates the need to use ice or dry ice when packing and shipping clinical lab specimens and units of blood.

One user of this technology is Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States, based in Rockville, Maryland. It ships blood in transport containers that do not require ice and have built-in data monitors to verify that the units of blood were maintained at proper temperatures. These transport systems are sold by Gryphes, Inc., of Covington, Georgia; and Gaithersburg, Maryland.

“Transporting blood units in these containers provides us with the ability to protect the integrity of blood products while giving us a consistent way to ship blood that doesn’t use ice and has built-in data monitors,” commented Brian K. Williamson, CT/MT/SBB (ASCP), Kaiser’s Quality Systems and Resource Utilization Manager.

Kaiser Permanente has facilities in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. These centers vary from small outpatient and urgent care facilities to clinical decision units.

“We like the consistency that this blood transport system provides us,” noted Williamson. “Consistency is important for us because our facilities are spread out and we have many hands touching the blood.” Since there is only one way to pack these containers, they provide a standardized way to ship blood.

Used To Ship Blood Units

“We send blood from Kaiser’s regional lab in Rockville to our Capitol Hill facility, which is downtown D.C., or we will send blood to our facility in Gaithersburg, which is about 15 miles away,” Williamson said. “Sometimes, if a transfusion is canceled, they might need to send the blood back to the Rockville Regional Lab. This shipping container helps to ensure that the integrity of the blood is maintained at all times during transport.

“We also like the fact that we no longer have to use ice because that eliminates the problems that occur when ice is used to keep the units of blood at the proper temperature for transport,” continued Williamson. “When you use ice, you have to use a certain number of pounds of ice, and to pack it in a way so that the ice won’t compromise the blood. By eliminating the need to use ice, we’ve eliminated those associated problems.

“Another benefit is the data monitor, that is in the shipping container,” Williamson said. “Now we know the temperature of the blood from the moment it’s packed until we get it back to our blood bank here in Rockville.”

When unpacking the box, the lab tech can see the current temperature on the data monitor. He or she can also download the shipment’s temperature history to a computer.

Reliable Data Monitoring

“I have all the data monitors set to record the temperature every five minutes,” noted Williamson. “The data is used to ensure that the blood was maintained at the appropriate temperature during transport and to meet regulations and accreditation standards. For transport, blood must be in a range of 1 to 10 degrees Celsius.

“Transport blood outside of this temperature range and it would be a loss,” he added. “You don’t want to lose any blood because each unit of blood costs about $300—depending on the type of blood and special requirements the physician requested.”

Integrity During Transport

When Kaiser started doing its own blood transfusions in April 2011, it began to use the Gryphes system to transport blood.

“Although I cannot tell you about how much money has been saved, or the specific payback for this transport system, I can say this,” observed Williamson. “I do know this transport system has met the requirements we had, which were consistency in handling across all sites, no need to use ice, and continuous data monitoring.”

Transport Lab Specimens Without Using Ice, Dry Ice

IT WAS A SURVEY of clinical laboratories and blood banks that launched the founders of Gryphes, Inc., on their search to develop a laboratory specimen transport system.

“The need was greatest in protecting the integrity of blood products during transport,” recalled Randal H. Miller, MT(ASCP), Chief Technology Officer at Gryphes. “There were three things that blood bankers told us they wanted. One was consistency in storing and shipping blood. Second was to eliminate the need to use ice and third was continuous temperature monitoring.”

Since launching its novel, ice-free system for transporting blood products back in 2005, Gryphes has about 100 blood bank customers nationwide. “Transfusing compromised blood is life-threatening and could cause a serious patient care problem,” observed Miller. “There is zero tolerance for problems in the blood bank, which is why a transport system that reliably keeps a unit of blood at the correct temperature and includes a continuous data monitor for documented compliance has won favor among our clients.

“The economics of the blood bank also play a role,” he continued. Typically, the blood bank is responsible for about 25% of the total hospital laboratory budget. Some hospitals routinely spend $200,000 to $500,000 per month for purchased blood products.

“Haivng an ice-free, reliable transport system that reduces the loss of blood products while at the same time documenting the integrity of the transported units of blood are reasons why this system is finding favor with labs at some of the nation’s best-known hospitals and health systems,” concluded Miller.

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