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Wake Forest Baptist Develops System for Tracking Blood Temperature

The North Carolina hospital will soon be marketing the RFID-based technology to other medical centers to track blood coolers' locations and length of time they are outside a blood center, and therefore unrefrigerated.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 17, 2011A blood-bank management system using RFID technology is working so well at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (WFBMC) that the hospital has applied for a patent and helped found a company to sell the system to other hospitals. The solution, dubbed Time Temp Trac, consists of an add-on to Wake Forest's existing real-time location system (RTLS) software to allow staff to track how long a blood cooler is outside the blood bank. By using the system for its 35 coolers, the hospital has been able to ensure the coolers don't get lost, and staff members receive updates when the products are scheduled to be returned to the blood bank to ensure they meet Food and Drug Administration (FDA) temperature requirements for storage.

Prior to using the new system, which was installed in August of last year, staff often didn't know just where its coolers were in the facility. To comply with FDA regulations regarding storage temperature of blood, the hospital purchased higher-quality Minnesota Thermal Science coolers that can keep the blood at an acceptable temperature. However, because the coolers are expensive, says Mary Rose Jones, blood bank/bone marrow transplant processing manager, she was interested in tracking their location to ensure they returned to the blood bank.

Ronald Noel, WFBMC's receiving manager and the developer of Time Temp Trac, stands alongside blood coolers fitted with CenTrak RFID tags. (photo: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center)

WFBMC, located in Winston-Salem, N.C., first began testing various RTLS systems to track assets in 2005. Ultimately, in 2009, it selected a system consisting of hardware from CenTrak and software from Patient Care Technology Systems (PCTS)—now owned by Awarepoint—to track the location of items such as IV poles and pumps as they move around the four-million-square-foot campus (see Wake Forest Med Center Launches Vaccine-Tracking RTLS). In August 2010, the hospital began tracking its coolers, affixing each one with a CenTrak RFID tag encoded with a unique ID number linked to the cooler in the RTLS system. As the coolers move around the facility, their locations are tracked, using the existing RFID readers and infrared emitters in the hospital.

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