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Success Stories - Pathology Department, Royal Blackburn Hospital, part of East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust


To improve the specimen testing process within their Histology department, East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust have implemented a barcoded specimen identification solution within the Pathology Laboratory at Royal Blackburn Hospital. The solution, which links to their Telepath LIM System, has vastly improved traceability and tracking of tissue samples within the laboratory. Specimen identification throughout the selection and examination process is now near 100% accurate, vastly improving patient safety. Efficiency savings have been recognised by removing manual data entry, leaving staff to get on with the important job of inspecting samples, rather than keying in data or manually writing sample labels.


"The Specimen Identification solution has been a great asset to the department and has given us so many unforeseen benefits. Staff are saving on average 2-3 hours per day - that's 15 hours a week, which equates to 2 full working days! Not only are patients receiving results much faster, but we can be certain that they are accurate too." says David Muskett, Lead Biomedical Scientist, Cellular Pathology at Royal Blackburn Hospital.


About East Lancashire NHS Healthcare Trust

The Pathology Laboratory at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, along with the Pathology Lab at Burnley General Hospital, is part of the Department of Clinical Laboratory Medicine at ELHT. There are three main disciplines within Clinical Laboratory Medicine; Blood Sciences (comprising Biochemistry, Haematology and Blood Transfusion), Cellular Pathology (comprising Histology, Andrology and Non-gynae cytology and Microbiology. Staff within the Pathology Laboratory at the Royal Blackburn are responsible for assessing samples from patients all over East Lancashire.



The Challenge

Ensuring patient safety is paramount when processing and examining tissue specimens within the Histology Department at Royal Blackburn Hospital. If a sample is lost or not correctly linked to a patient, this could mean a patient not getting vital treatment or being told they have an illness when they are, in fact, perfectly healthy.


Histology had been experiencing problems with incorrectly input patient data and mis-reading of handwritten labels, resulting in samples being linked to the wrong patients. Due to the time sensitive nature of the examination process, a solution was required to assist tracking and tracebility through the specimen preparation and examination. ELHT were already using NiceLabel Suite Standard v3.6, supplied through Leica Biosystems, who provide many of their other Pathology equipment, but it did not give them the connectivity options and functionality needed to extract data in a usable format from their Telepath LIM system.


"Previously, we had to print a whole days worth of labels at once and then match them to each slide, which obviously led to mislabelled slides and took a huge amount of time to do. We wanted a solution that would streamline the process and allow us to print on demand, which is when we contacted Barcode-IT." continues Dave Muskett.


The Barcode-IT Solution

The solution supplied by Barcode-IT to ELHT is fairly simple, but the benefits it has given to the Histology Department have far exceeded their expectations. They use NiceLabel Suite and Powerforms Desktop to design labels and produce forms for their technicians to use when printing specimen identification labels. Throughout the process of sample selection and testing, specimens are put into various different vessels, which all need to be correctly labelled.


Data is entered onto the system using patient cards, each one is barcoded for identification purposes. Using data about the type of sample and the urgency of the tests, a colour coded cassette is produced by the Leica unit, with a 2D barcode, with each colour representing a different level of urgency. A barcode label is printed from a Zebra G-Series desktop printer and attached, identifying the patient and tissue type. Once selected, each sample is placed into the allocated cassette and prepared for sectioning. At each stage the patient information is scanned into the system using a Zebra barcode scanner mounted on a stand at each station, so details of which process has taken place and which lab technician performed the procedure is recorded for traceability purposes.


Scanning the barcode at the different stations can also trigger instructions to be given to the technician regarding the sample. For example, when the barcode is scanned at the Sectioning station, the technician is told how many sections of tissue are required for testing. The tissue is then sectioned and put onto slides, which are then labelled accordingly and sent for examination.


The solution is also being used to help track the tissue sample after the specimen has been taken. Tissue is kept for 28 days following sample selection, just in case another sample is required. Previously, the sample storage refridgerator had no tracking system in place and samples had to be reprocessed before they could be disposed of. Now, once the sample is taken from the tissue, it is stored in preserving chemicals and a barcoded ticket is attached to the storage bag. If another sample is not required during the 28 day period, the tissue can simply be disposed of immediately, removing the need for time consuming additional disposal procedures.



The Benefits

Samples are re-labelled numerous times within the Specimen Preparation process, so the barcoded labels remove the need for re-entering the data numerous time, eliminating the risk of incorrect data entry and improving accuracy of specimen identification to almost 100%.


"The solution supplied by Barcode-IT cost us around 10-15% of the cost of an industry specific solution. We can make changes ourselves, so there's no delay or expense when we need to amend a label or form." explains Dave Muskett.


Since implementing the original solution in Histology, the Specimen Identification solution is being used in different areas of the laboratory to streamline specimen processing and examination, and reduce errors. Microbiology now use NiceLabel software, scanners and desktop printers to ensure that samples are not mislabelled, especially important as positive samples need to be relabelled and sent to other specialist hospitals for further testing.



For more information on how NiceLabel could provide a solution for your business, contact Nigel Holloway on 01200 441977 for details.


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