Radio-Frequency Tags Cut Specimen Bottle Errors

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TUESDAY, Oct. 7 (HealthDay News) -- The risk and number of errors during biopsy analysis can be drastically reduced by instituting labeling systems for specimen bottles, a new study says.

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., which conducted the study, is proposing that busy labs add radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to track and automate identification of biopsy specimens taken during gastrointestinal endoscopic procedures.

RFID tags, which are commonly such used in libraries or on passports, can be applied to or incorporated into an object so that it can be identified by using radio waves. This is its first application to track specimens in a health-care setting.

The study and proposal were expected to be presented Tuesday at the American College of Gastroenterology annual meeting, in Orlando, Fla.

"The Gastroenterology and Colorectal Surgery outpatient endoscopy unit at our facility yields over 30,000 specimen bottles that are sent for pathologic review every year," study author Dr. Dawn Francis, a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic, said in a clinic news release. "Over the past several years, Mayo Clinic identified some issues with mislabeling of tissue specimens in the units. Most labeling errors have been due to either the wrong patient label or no label being affixed to a specimen bottle. As a result, a quality improvement initiative was created to reduce the number of specimen-labeling errors."

Mayo Clinic researchers drew their conclusions in a review of specimen-labeling errors at their facility in three months before and after the implementation of RFID specimen labeling there. Prior to the new system, 765 errors occurred out of 8,231 specimen bottles sent to the pathology laboratory for evaluation. The error total plummeted, to 47 out of 8,539 bottles, after the RFID plan was instituted.

"It appears that this quality initiative, with emphasis on correct data creation and transcription point reduction, has the potential to significantly improve our clinical practice," Dr. Schuyler Sanderson, a pathologist involved in the research, said in the news release.

More information

The National Cancer Institute has more about gastrointestinal cancer.

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