Tracking effectively biological specimens is a top priority for healthcare institutions. However, this is often a time-consuming task that is affected by numerous vulnerabilities, including obsolete tracking technologies, manual processes, loss of samples, waste of time looking for samples, and labeling/reading errors.
Nevertheless, medical labs must offer an accurate and efficient diagnostic testing process to their patients, especially as medical decisions are almost exclusively dependent on the outcome of these results. Without efficient tracking tools and best practices, misdiagnosis — the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S. — is expected.
The need for first-class biological specimen tracking
Efficaciously monitoring biological samples such as blood, urine, tissues, and others provides health managers with important data.
- Exact location of the samples during the entire testing process
- Accurate patient information associated to each sample
- Type and number of testings carried out on samples
- Log of people who have been in contact with the sample
With a sophisticated tracking system in place, laboratories can better produce, collect, interpret, share and store specimen information. Above all, medical facilities are able to match the results of a test to the right patient details (name, address, age, doctor, etc.).
Besides acknowledging that many misdiagnoses are the result of bad protocols, an increased number of patients, or a higher demand for quicker results; outdated tracking technologies, or even worse, manual processes can lead to multiple potential points of error. These include, among others, performing the same procedure more than once on a sample, performing the wrong test on a sample, and matching the specimen with the wrong recipient.
Hence, it is key to:
- Capture and record specimen data correctly.
- Track, without error, the location, quality, and complete history of the specimen throughout the testing process.
- Utilize modern tracking solutions, such as barcodes or RFID, which permit the improvement of the tracking methodology and address safety challenges successfully.
Barcode tracking alternative
With a barcoded tracking solution, laboratories can confirm the identity of every specimen and match it accurately with the identity of the patient – throughout the complete diagnostic process. A unique identifier is assigned and attached to the sample. Barcode readers are then used to track where that sample goes through the different steps of the process.
Each patient has a unique identification number. This number is clearly and permanently printed on each specimen container along with a barcode representing the ID number in scannable form. When the specimen is scanned, the system automatically connects the identifying numbers and barcodes.
Another identification/tracking method is Radio Frequency Identification or RFID. With this method, the system recognizes the sample as soon as it comes into close proximity. It can also be configured to meet the specific needs of labs.
RFID can be implemented with high or low frequency. The reading distance is up to 4 inches (10.16 cm), and tags can be read one by one. It is available in small sizes that can be easily affixed to individual vials and various specimen containers.
Integrating a modern specimen tracking solution with other technologies for complete control and visibility should be considered. A knowledgeable integrator can help you assemble a comprehensive structure that helps you prevent misdiagnoses and other problems, by also installing visitor management or an access control system.
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It's time to embrace innovation and prioritize accurate tracking in your healthcare institution. Explore advanced specimen-tracking solutions that will transform your laboratory operations and help combat misdiagnosis.