Pneumatic Tube Systems: Prioritizing Patient Care

At the peak of the pandemic, demand for COVID-19 testing at hospitals caused delays in testing for other disorders such as respiratory diseases, STIs, and healthcare associated infections. Even now, up to 40% of ER patients are primarily there for COVID testing, meaning backups for other tests are only increasing. With so many other patients who need tests each day, what is causing such a delay in receiving results?


In 2021, 99% of US hospitals and health systems reported procurement challenges. Shortages affected critical lab supplies such as pipettes, sterile water, and regents which are all integral in producing results for lab tests. Along with equipment shortages, nearly 80% of physicians reported shortages of drugs. These drugs affect all patients, not just those with COVID-19.


The lack of supplies and drugs in hospitals and healthcare systems is directly affecting the accuracy of tests and the delivery of results. Blood, plasma, and platelet samples are often temperature and time sensitive. If a sample has to wait to be tested due to supply shortages, there is a higher chance that it will be rejected. In fact, 6% of emergency lab specimens are rejected before analysis. These materials have to be discarded, and tests have to be retaken. This wastes valuable time and resources for an already stressed healthcare system. 


The implementation of pneumatic tube systems can help alleviate some of the pressure of healthcare workers and solve the problem of inventory waste. These tube systems move carriers using compressed air and can transport materials at around 25 feet per second. Sensors ensure each carrier reaches its intended destination in a timely manner. These carriers can move from station to station, floor to floor, and even into different buildings! This means no matter where a test needs to go, it will get there before it is time or temperature compromised. 


Pneumatic tube systems not only help hospital systems deliver materials in a timely manner, they can also help ensure that samples don’t break and help avoid medication errors. RFID tagging is used to make sure samples are delivered to the correct station, and this helps to also reduce labeling errors overall. Tube systems also prioritize delivery for emergency medications, blood units, and IVs which can lower the risk of running out of these essential supplies. 


It has been proven that pneumatic tube systems have numerous benefits for hospitals and other healthcare systems. Advanced systems significantly reduce turnaround time for emergency testing, which helps to reduce time to treatment as well as patient wait times in the ER. In an average hospital, tests were delivered nearly 20 minutes faster than in hospitals that don’t have a tube system. In one hospital it was found that a floor with a tube system experienced zero medication errors over four weeks compared toa  floor without a system that experienced 16.


The healthcare system already deals with enough stress especially after the pandemic. Implementing pneumatic tube systems can help to alleviate some of these stresses in a number of ways. Learn more about the benefits of these systems in the infographic below:

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