Flexible RFID drives scalable medical sample shipments

UK spinout SamplePod is using flexible RFID chips in labels from PragmatIC to tracks thousands of medical samples every day.

An innovative pod design for carrying medical samples is using a flexible RFID chip to track thousands of shipments every day

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the challenges of thousands of medical samples every day. A UK medical innovation company called Quality Hospital Solutions (QHS) is using flexible RFID technology to manage the movement of medical samples throughout the community.

“The NHS comes to QHS with issues that are currently unsolvable, and the NHS trust in Gateshead came to us with a problem of transport and tracking of samples taken in primary care such as a GP,” said David Frame, a director of SamplePod, the spin out of NETPark based QHS that is commercialising the pod.

“One of the challenges is there are seven or eight different standard formats and the pathology labs have no idea what’s in the bag until they open it, and this is the case for 10 to 11,000 samples per day. These are opened manually, and can be spoiled, the bar code doesn’t scan, it perhaps doesn’t tie up with the label. Overall, the system doesn’t scale,” said Frame.

To address this, QHS designed a carrier that could accommodate the most common sizes of the sample bottles to make them easier to transport and to use in the labs for testing, as the challenge is set to get even bigger.

“The move in the UK is to create super laboratories,” said Frame. “The investment in automation allows them to scale to 55,000 samples per day. The problem that they have is the manual labour in decanting 50,000 samples. What this will do is help expand the capacity of the labs and influence the patient outcomes, 2 to 3% of samples need to be retaken, at £60, and the outcome. This is an issue that is genuinely global,” he says.

“So the NHS wanted a pod that takes all the variants and eradicates the waste. For example, there is 5.5 tonnes of clinical waste a year just from one trust,” said Frame. “We resolved the transport issue with a stackable, rackable, sample unit but we didn’t have the technology for the tracking.”

So SamplePOD worked with Cambridge & NETPark based thin film RFID specialist PragmatIC on flexible technology that could be used in the labels around the samples for tracking.

Source: Electronics Europe News

NETPark businesses Quality Hospital Solutions (QHS) and PragmatIC, work together on SamplePod.

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