Lots of hospitals around the world use pneumatic tube systems to move meds, blood products, patient samples, usually without any problems. But problems can arise, as was the case at the University of Virginia Health System where blood samples sometimes arrived damaged. Specifically, many red blood cells in some samples were damaged as though they were subject to significant force. To understand what happened, a clinical chemistry postdoc and a professor of Pathology sent a couple of retired smartphones through different routes of the tube system. Smartphones have accelerometers that can fairly accurately estimate the G forces they’re subjected to and the researchers used readily available apps to obtain the data. Moreover, they used one phone to video record blood samples as they were being shuttled through the system.
The results of the study published in journal Clinical Chemistry clearly pointed to one path, the longest within the pneumatic tube system, that subjected the samples to unacceptable force levels. Clinicians at the hospital now know to avoid this pathway and we’re guessing that there are engineers looking into slowing down the capsule speed.
As a side note, none of the phones suffered any substantial damage, a curious fact that may be useful to some clinicians.
Study in Clinical Chemistry: Smartphones Can Monitor Medical Center Pneumatic Tube Systems…