Manual monitoring of laboratory and remote equipment can be a tedious and time- consuming process often neglected due to resource constraints or lack of time. As staff perform once or twice daily checks to log the temperature, it is often several hours or longer before a problem is discovered.
If a measurement is taken at the start of the day and appears to be satisfactory, there is no way of detecting, for example, a ‘hidden’ defrost cycle occurring regularly overnight with an individual freezer. This is a particularly serious problem for refrigerated units, which in the microbiology laboratory contain items including liquid reagents, antibiotic sensitivity disks and patient samples – all at high risk of irreversible damage in the event of a cooling malfunction.
Early warning system
In order to prevent such problems arising, The Department of Microbiology at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children has installed a Labguard automatic monitoring system with 50 probes (supplied by Don Whitley Scientific, UK). Providing a rapid high-quality investigation and advice service to allow the accurate diagnosis and appropriate management of children with infection and infectious disease, the department laboratory performs a wide range of routine and specialist investigations in bacteriology, mycology, parasitology and virology.
The Labguard system has been employed for the continuous real-time temperature and carbon dioxide monitoring of the laboratory’s incubators, refrigerators, freezers, water baths and ovens, used during the examination of over 600,000 tests associated with approximately 95,000 samples per annum.
As well as eliminating the need for manual checks, the wireless system is providing more accurate and reliable data to improve both productivity and performance, which is permanently recorded to support quality reviews and audits. By measuring at hourly as opposed to daily intervals, trends are analysed and potential problems identified before they occur and cause disruption.
Labguard allows the laboratory staff to program the acceptable limits for each temperature-controlled unit so that it issues an immediate alarm the instant that a reading falls outside the specified range. Ensuring remedial action can be taken immediately, operators can choose to be warned visually, audibly and via a telephone call for ‘out of hours’ peace of mind. The modular and upgradeable system can simultaneously monitor multiple pieces of equipment transmitting data to a stand-alone computer or existing network.
Head MLSO Peter Watson explained: “Labguard has proved essential in the early detection of failing equipment, particularly freezers. Electronic monitoring of temperatures removes the need for an MLA to monitor temperatures through manual methods, and we have been able to eliminate the large volume of associated paperwork.”
With full CPA accreditation in both microbiology and virology, the secure storage of all data readings is a prerequisite for the laboratory’s audit trail compliance, particularly with CPA standards D and H. Standard D applies to the procurement and management of equipment, data and information, reagents, calibration and quality control. Standard H governs the quality management system’s internal auditing, external assessment and quality improvement.
Labguard securely stores all data readings to provide fully traceable results and a detailed audit trail compliant with FDA CFR 21 Part 11 and GLP regulations, and is easily integrated into an IQ.OQ.PQ structure. The system can be calibrated in accordance with UKAS requirements, and a calibration module including a reference probe and operating software can be purchased to enable calibration to be performed in-house with no interruption of monitoring functions.
Peter Watson added: “We chose Labguard as it had the best specification at the right price. The support and service we have had from Don Whitley Scientific continues to be friendly, responsive and reliable”.