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Maintaining Specimen Integrity In Extreme Conditions

Maintaining Specimen Integrity In Extreme Conditions

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, indoor, outdoor, North or South, land, air, or sea; medical specimens are transported to labs in all conditions. During these journeys, it's very important to maintain the integrity of the medical specimens. Appropriately handling and maintaining temperature control of medical specimens are vital to preserving sample integrity during transport. Compromised medical specimens could lead to inaccurate test results!

The article, Sample Delivery to the Clinical Lab: Neither Heat, Nor Snow, Nor Gravitational Force, by AACC (American Association for Clinical Chemistry), walks us through the difference between external and internal sample delivery systems, what specimen integrity looks like for each one, and how labs are working to improve the process.

External vs. Internal Specimen Transportation

External transportation means planes, trains, couriers, or drivers. Someone who has to physically transport the specimens from one location to another. Labs that have a wide geographic reach, whether local, regional, or national will usually contract or employ drivers who can pick up samples from offsite collection centers to bring back to the lab for testing or put on a plane to reach the lab. A courier can also recover from the airport to make the final delivery to the lab. The other is internal, such as a tube system that uses a vacuum and pressure paths to circulate specimens between departments. This system is typically used for integrated, larger institutions.

Challenges in Specimen Collection Journey 

The specimen collection journey could use some improvement to reduce questionable results. Two challenges faced by labs in external transportation are maintaining sample temperature, specifically ambient, in outdoor environments during extended periods in extreme conditions and specimen integrity after overexertion from shaking on planes and trains. Copy of IG Lab Week 22

Experts found that the overexertion issues were reduced in labs that used a higher standard of transportation containers. These containers provide climate control and monitor agitation during the delivery. They have been found to increase courier trips with acceptable specimen integrity deliveries.

The issue with outdoor lockboxes is that no standard guidelines exist. So there are no recommendations for:

  • Sample storage time limits
  • Lockbox material and insulation
  • Lockbox location
  • Maintenance of lockbox temperatures during seasonal extremes

The recommended solution here is to have a routinely reviewed internal procedure on what lockbox standards you'd like to follow while addressing the points above.

Leveraging Courier Services as a Temperature Management Solution 

These challenges are unfortunately pinned on the laboratories to resolve. However, there is a practical method to protect specimen integrity and ensure accurate results after transportation by using an experienced medical courier service.

A medical courier who specializes in high-touch, time-critical deliveries can:

  • Perform routine sweeps of your lockbox locations to ensure no specimens are sitting in any extreme weather for extended periods of time
  • Check on outside lockboxes for specimens 24/7/365
  • Provide dedicated drivers 
  • Be on-call for STAT specimen pickups
  • Provide drivers who are equipped with ambient, refrigerated, and frozen coolers to ensure specimens from lockboxes and healthcare facilities maintain their temperature
  • Replenish shipments at the airport with dry or wet ice - especially those that may sit for longer durations of time while awaiting U.S. Customs clearance. 

Using an experienced medical courier service is another layer of ensuring specimen integrity assurance. Excel Courier has over 200 GPS-tracked HIPAA and Bloodborne Pathogen certified drivers who are industry experts in transporting medical samples.

Quality control and handling are what we know. Our courier experts understand how important these samples are for you, your clients, and your patients and what is at risk if they are compromised.

Looking for an experienced and reliable Medical Courier Services provider to accommodate your needs? Please consider Excel Courier. Need service right away? Get started with a free quote request.

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