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French Biobank Secures Specimens

To improve patient care, Nice University Hospital tracks surgical samples for diagnosis using radio frequency identification.
By Bob Violino
Mar 28, 2011Nice University Hospital, a multipurpose public health-care institution located in Nice, France, has been working with the international Secure Communication Solutions (SCS) organization since its creation in 2005, to bring innovative technology solutions to the health-care sector. This collaboration resulted in the creation of an RFID-based system that provides greater traceability and security of samples in the hospital's biobank, a cryogenic facility that stores surgical specimens for diagnosis and prognosis, as well as for clinical and translational research.

At any given time, Nice University Hospital has roughly 57,000 biological samples stored in its biobank. Until recently, the facility relied on a manual, paper-based traceability process that involved attaching paper documentation to all samples. This process was time-consuming and error-prone, and could result in lost samples and compromised security.

Specimens are placed in individual cryogenic tubes identified with passive HF 13.56 MHz RFID tags.

In July 2010, the hospital, along with SCS and other partners, launched the MISTRALS pilot, designed to improve patient care by reducing the risk of errors. The goal was to develop a more efficient, accurate and secure way to identify specimens within the biobank, and to track them as they moved from the hospital's pathology laboratory to the biobank.

"A key challenge for the health-care IT sector is certainly the strong requirement for data security and data management, associated with an increasing need for confidential data exchange," says Paul Hofman, the hospital's biobank manager and one of the RFID pilot's leaders. "In the MISTRALS project, we aim to [address these challenges] by ensuring the traceability and timely delivery of the biospecimen samples."

The MISTRALS trial, completed at the end of 2010, was successful, and hospital officials are now considering a much broader rollout of RFID technology for tracking medical equipment and other items throughout the facility.
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