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Mayo Clinic, ODIN Commercialize Specimen Tracking

ODIN will market the EasySpecimen solution, which the clinic will also use in its own labs.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 19, 2011After approximately four years of research into creating an RFID system to provide traceability of laboratory specimens, the Mayo Clinic's Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology has licensed a patent for the technology to software provider ODIN, and has collaborated with that firm to commercialize the system, dubbed EasySpecimen.

With EasySpecimen, clinics can attach passive RFID labels to tissue sample containers in order to store and update electronic records about the patient from whom the tissue was collected, the date and time of the sample collection, and clinical details about that sample. In the laboratory, pathologists have the benefit of seeing the electronic information that came directly from the clinical collection area, and need not worry about transcription errors that might have been introduced had this information been rekeyed into the lab's information system. This is possible due to the label's RFID tag, which provides a link to the physical tissue sample within the records.

The Mayo Clinic's Schuyler Sanderson
In 2007, the Mayo Clinic deployed an earlier version of the solution, installing an off-the-shelf RFID-enabled library tracking system provided by 3M, slightly modified to fit the requirements of its endoscopy unit and pathology lab (see At Mayo Clinic, RFID Slashes Error Rate). Since then, the clinic reports, the system has proven to virtually eliminate specimen-labeling discrepancies (in which the details of the paper-based records were in some way missing or inaccurate). Previously, the error rate had been about 10 percent.

The Mayo Clinic is now in the process of implementing the EasySpecimen solution across its 42 GI/colorectal endoscopy suites and its anatomic pathology (AP) laboratory, on the Rochester, Minn., campus. The solution uses ODIN's RFID software, which provides the same RFID read and data-management functions as the 3M software. In addition, it will provide the foundation for the transition away from 3M's high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz RFID readers and tags, complying with the ISO 18000-3 standard.

The AP lab produces and analyzes about one million tissue slides for diagnoses annually. These glass slides are generated from the numerous tissue specimens collected at the clinic. About 30,000 of the specimens come from the GI/colorectal surgery endoscopy practice, says Schuyler Sanderson, M.D., the Mayo Clinic pathologist who led the RFID project. Before the RFID system was adopted, the lab utilized an entirely manual process for tracking specimens, from the collection area to the AP laboratory. Typically, when a physician takes samples from a patient, critical specimen and patient data—including identification information, the part of the body from which the tissue was taken, and comments from the doctor—are entered into the clinical electronic information system.

Prior to the RFID system's installation, this information was then manually copied to a paper requisition form by the nursing staff. The form stayed with the sample at all times, and was typically attached to the container via a rubber band, or placed loose within a plastic bag with the specimen container or containers. The sample was then delivered to the AP lab, where the staff had to visually match the containers to the patient ID data and the paper requisition form, and then manually input that information into the AP lab's database. However, paperwork could be lost or placed with the wrong container, specimens could end up missing, or incorrect data could be entered into the lab's database due to a transcription error. "All that," Sanderson notes, "has the potential to happen well before the AP lab has even had the chance to produce the glass slide sections for tissue diagnosis by the pathologist—a tough way to start a tissue analysis that will impact diagnosis, prognosis and therapy for those patients."

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