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Super Six: Lab Labeling

Posted by Zebra Global

October 14, 2014 at 12:00 PM

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In the Super Six series, we explore the ways that Zebra is providing solutions to the healthcare industry.  Each post focuses on one particular category and examines the ways in which Zebra is actively providing healthcare facilities with solutions to improve the way they operate. This post is all about labeling in the laboratory!

Although it is a place not seen by most patients, hospital laboratories are ground zero for making major patient care decisions. Hospital employees frequently collection specimens and transport them to labs for a series of tests to identify the cause of illness.

Laboratories, however, pose numerous potential challenges. Many of these spaces are large and span several floors, thus increasing the probability that some vials will get misplaced. This is particularly troublesome when there is only one sample (for example, tissue) available to test. In addition, labels can become unreadable when specimen slides are exposed to and submerged in solutions. Labs typically handle thousands of specimens at a time, so the risk of losing and mixing up samples is very real.

Consequently, Zebra's healthcare customers require printers and labels that can meet the demands of the lab—from collection to diagnosis—and eliminate as much room for error as possible.

Collected specimens typically arrive in two manners: from a nurse or phlebotomist who took a bedside blood or urine sample or from a surgical assistant who transfers a tissue specimen collected during an operation.

"Regardless of where the specimens originated—either bedside or surgery—they are frequently processed and relabeled when they arrive in the lab," said Donald Gibb, Zebra's healthcare industry development manager. According to Donald, lab technicians can use Zebra printers to produce new labels with additional details important to the testing process. This is particularly true for specimens that arrive from surgery, as many surgery specimen labels contain handwritten notes based on observations made during the procedure, such as tissue size, color and location.

"As specimens come into the lab, technicians are going scan and read the labels to determine which tests are appropriate," Donald said. Once the technician has determined the proper test or series of tests, he or she will divide the specimen into small pieces and place a single section or droplet onto each testing slide.

"It is vital that each slide is accurately labeled with the patient's name and testing information to avoid misdiagnosis," he said. "When a barcode label is created for each specimen testing slide, the information becomes part of the patient's electronic health record (EHR). Each test is properly documented within the record, and the specimen can be tracked while it's in the laboratory."

Since patients are removed from the lab test process, hospitals are less concerned with using aesthetically-pleasing healthcare-specific printers, like the GK420 Healthcare, in this setting.

"Laboratory labeling is typically a high-volume application," Donald said. "Clients often require the ZT410 tabletop printer to handle high production." Smaller-batch applications call for the G-Series or GX420 printer, he added.

The printers make it possible to print the appropriate size, type and number of labels to ensure every specimen slide is properly marked and tracked. Zebra also provides high-quality media to protect patient information.  "Certain lab applications require labels that tolerate a variety of laboratory solutions, and that requires a Zebra ribbon to ensure the durability of the label," said Donald. "We're seeing a lot of customers turn to the GX430T, which offers high-resolution quality (300 dpi) and uses a ribbon (wax or resin) to produce labels that can withstand sitting in solution overnight." 

Donald believes improved accuracies in the lab are a win-win. "Patients win because their samples are being properly labeled, tracked and added to their EHRs," he said. "Technicians win because their work efficiencies improve and errors decline. This in turn enables doctors to make more accurate diagnoses and, as a result, more effective treatment plans for patients."

For more ways in which Zebra is partnering with hospitals to improve patient safety and care and eliminate risk, stay tuned for the next installment of the Super Six Series: Medication Labeling.

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About the Author: As healthcare practice lead – Americas, Andy Tippet oversees healthcare practice for North America and South America Regions of Zebra Technologies. Tippet provides planning and execution on marketing initiatives to drive revenues.

Topics: Healthcare, APAC, North America, Latin America, EMEA