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New System Tracks Specimens From Hospitals to Labs

Ambient ID has released a UHF Gen 2 solution that provides near-real-time visibility into the locations of vials containing human tissue or blood as they travel from hospitals to laboratories for diagnostic testing.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 30, 2009Working with some of the largest American hospitals and laboratories, Ambient ID a Seattle-based provider of business-management technology for hospitals and clinics, has developed a tracking system for monitoring specimen vials as they are transported to and from laboratories for testing, as well as while they are in storage. The system, dubbed LabTrack, is designed to offer labs and health-care providers near-real-time visibility into the vials' locations.

LabTrack is commercially available now, and is already in use by 14 hospitals and laboratories, says Peter Allison, Ambient ID's chairman and president, with that number expected to rise to 75 by the end of this year. Allison declines to name the labs and health-care providers his company worked with to develop LabTrack, but says the collaborative effort is what makes it a good fit for the industry.

Ambient ID's Peter Allison
According to Allison, because those earliest participants included some of the largest labs in the United States, they represent a higher percentage of pathology lab work conducted on human specimens. For that reason, a large number of health-care providers (some of which are "member hospitals" for those labs) could share data with them regarding the locations of specimen vials as they travel from hospital to lab, using the LabTrack system.

In the spring of 2008, according to Robert Grenley, Ambient ID's executive VP of business development, the company first joined forces with potential customers—primarily laboratories—to learn which issues needed to be resolved when it came to tracking human tissue and blood samples as they pass through several hands, from hospitals to laboratories and sometimes into storage.

After a tissue sample is taken—from a biopsy, for instance—or blood is drawn, the sample, in a vial, can often take a lengthy journey through several laboratories or health-care facilities before it is tested and the results are reported back to the physician and patient. The patient's name, as well as other identifying information, is typically printed on each vial. The vials are loaded into a box, which is labeled with a bar-code label. The label is then scanned with a bar-code reader, or the human-readable characters are recorded by the box's recipients.

The boxes are loaded in larger bags before being shipped to pathology labs, and those bags can change hands several times as they are channeled to a laboratory that specializes in diagnostics specific to the tissue or the test being conducted. They are often transported to a collection center, then to a pathology lab and finally to a specific pathology station within that lab.

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