Last week we wrote about how RFID temperature monitoring prevented a rare cancer drug from spoiling at a Rhode Island hospital. The drugs were valued at more than $500,000. This week, the Boston Globe reports that a freezer malfunction at a Massachusetts hospital has severely damaged one-third of the world’s largest collection of autism brain samples. The mishap could set back autism research by years.
RFID-enabled refrigerator and freezer units are becoming increasingly popular in healthcare settings as a way to monitor temperature in real time and ensure the validity of pharmaceuticals, surgery tools, blood products and tissue samples like those being stored at the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center.
Officials estimate that the freezer unit had been inactive for three days. It’s likely that an RFID-enabled unit, such as those produced by Terso Solutions, would have sent an immediate alert to hospital personnel. Terso has deployed more than 1,000 RFID-enabled cabinets, freezers and refrigerators around the world. Its latest RFID-enabled freezer unit is capable of tracking storage needs down to minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and marks the first time that a single unit can track items at that temperature by using RFID.
Here’s an excerpt from the Boston Globe article:
A freezer malfunction at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital has severely damaged one-third of the world’s largest collection of autism brain samples, potentially setting back research on the disorder by years, scientists say.
An official at the renowned brain bank in Belmont discovered that the freezer had shut down in late May, without triggering two alarms. Inside, they found 150 thawed brains that had turned dark from decay; about a third of them were part of a collection of autism brains.
“This was a priceless collection,’’ said Dr. Francine Benes, director of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, where the brains were housed. “You can’t express its value in dollar amounts,’’ said Benes, who is leading one of two internal investigations into the freezer failure.
The McLean freezer, one of 24 in the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, was protected by two separate alarm systems, and staff checked an external thermostat twice a day to ensure that the tissue samples were maintained at about minus-80 degrees Celsius. But on May 31, center Assistant Director George Tejada opened so-called Freezer U and wasn’t greeted by the expected blast of cold air. Though the alarms had not been triggered and the external thermostat read minus-79, the actual temperature was 7 degrees, roughly equivalent to a refrigerator. Based on the condition of the brains, Benes estimates the freezer had turned off three days earlier.