Written by: Scott Hondros
Twice every single day, nurses across the United States check the temperatures of clinical refrigerators and freezers on their units to ensure they stay within the desired and regulatory required ranges. If the temperature climbs too high for too long, medication, vaccines, and nutrition products are at risk for spoilage.
A Senior Nursing Operations Manager at a large academic medical center told me that “All it takes to lose thousands of dollars worth of vaccines is a refrigerator door accidentally left ajar or a power loss over the weekend. That’s why we were so vigilant about checking temperatures. We were always on alert.”
Thanks to automated Temperature Monitoring system, powered by condition-sensing probes, nurses can use the time spent checking temperatures for a better purpose—patient care.
In this article, my goal is to outline the value that comes with an automated temperature monitoring system. In future articles, I will explain not only how the technical pieces of the system work, but even more importantly what hospitals need to take into account with regard to process to make sure that the desired results are achieved.
To meet compliance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The Joint Commission standards, a temperature check is required twice daily. It takes deliberate effort and valuable nursing time away from patient care to check and document refrigeration temperatures on each and every unit.
“If a temperature went out of range, time was spent investigating the problem,” explained a Director of Nursing, Clinical Compliance and Regulatory Services. “The nurse not only had to call Engineering but also a pharmacist to check whether to discard medications or vaccines based on how long the temperature was out of range. This resulted in even more time away from patients.”
With the implementation of an automated temperature monitoring system, nurses and other staff no longer manually monitor and document temperatures for refrigerators, freezers, and rooms installed with real-time temperature tags. The system will constantly monitor temperatures to ensure they remain within a defined range and will alert a central response center, or any other designated department or a person, if any problems arise.
According to the Director of Clinical Engineering. “If a temperature goes out of range, we will receive a temperature alert and will be one of the first to respond. With a RTLS-based temperature monitoring system, we can ensure 24/7 coverage to respond and fix any temperature issues.”
“The automated system brings multiple benefits,” said a Vice President of Resource Management. “Patient care staff will no longer be responsible for manually monitoring temperatures. The system will monitor temperatures throughout the day as well as evenings, weekends and holidays, ensuring that costly medications and vaccines are not lost. Temperature readings will be documented and stored electronically, so CDC and the Joint Commission compliance will be at or near 100 percent.” And as one of a Nursing Director I spoke with summarized it: “Best of all, it will give us more time to concentrate on patient care.”