Better ideas. Better outcomes.

Impact Statement 2018

LAB SPECIMEN DROP BOX Keeping Lab Specimens Safe and Protecting Patient Privacy

We’ve all been there—a nurse or clinician sends us into the restroom to leave a urine sample. We are given a small container, labeled with our name, date of birth, sometimes even the name of the test designated for the sample. We are then instructed to leave the sample on, typically, either a steel shelf in or outside of the restroom or inside a pass-through door that opens on both sides.

Spectrum Health has 35 lab sites. Twenty-six of these are inpatient sites, and 10 are outpatient sites. In our system alone, more than 500,000 lab patients are processed per year.

“We’ve never had a problem with this yet,” says Nick Rambow, MLS (ASCP), MS, lab manager, Spectrum Health. “But I’ve always thought there has to be a better way to do this. All our facilities are a little different. In some, patients have to actually bring their specimen out into the waiting room to place on a shelf there. It makes patients uncomfortable, and it can be a privacy concern.”

Rambow thought about how to make a container for lab specimens that is HIPAA-compliant and tamper-proof, and can keep the specimens secure until picked up by a staff member. He noticed the lockboxes that couriers used when taking specimens to the laboratory, and it occurred to him that something similar could be installed in restrooms with a PVC pipe at the top into which a specimen could be dropped.

“I went to the hardware store and bought some PVC pipe,” Rambow says. “I attached it to the top and the bottom of a lockbox and welded it to the wall at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.”

The idea had merit, but Rambow wanted to make more improvements. He took his concept to Spectrum Health Innovations, meeting with Kris Emery, RN, clinical specialist, and Alissa Smith, engineering intern.

“Alissa was ready and onboard,” Rambow says. “She took that initial conversation and ran with it. She came up with an innovative concept, made a prototype, SHI helped with the licensing, and now it is a product for sale in MarketLab’s catalog.”

MarketLab, a marketing business that sells laboratory and medical supplies, agreed to add the new stainless- steel, locking drop box to their line.

“Last I checked, they had sold nearly 50 of the boxes,” Smith says.

“What I love most about this is that Nick came up with a proactive solution,” says Leah Voigt, JD, MPH, chief privacy and research integrity officer, Spectrum Health System. “So many solutions are reactive, but Nick was thinking forward. Patient privacy is always a concern, and it can sometimes seem like an obstacle, something to work around, but this drop box was an elegant solution.”

The new drop boxes have already been placed in four sites. Voigt says plans are in the works to place the drop boxes in hospitals, physician offices, clinics, and other facilities.

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fast facts
  • Spectrum Health has 35 lab sites. Twenty-six of these are inpatient sites, and 10 are outpatient sites. In our system alone, we see more than 500,000 lab patients per year.
  • Most Spectrum Health sites currently use pass-through shelves or freestanding steel shelves in or outside the restroom to hold lab specimens. This can potentially expose patient personal information, including name, date of birth and test.
  • The new locking drop box for lab specimens can hold several lab specimens at a time and is HIPAA-compliant, tamper-proof and protects patient privacy.

perspectives
  • “When I needed to make my idea for a secure drop box workable, I thought of Spectrum Health Innovations. I worked with SHI for the next year, getting the drop box ready for market. It’s been a great experience.”

    Nick Rambow, MLS (ASCP), MS, lab manager, Spectrum Health
  • “It’s always fun and exciting to work with Spectrum Health Innovations on any new project. They are inquisitive by nature, always asking the right questions, doing the research and keeping patient privacy concerns in mind.”

    Leah Voigt, JD, MPH, chief privacy and research integrity officer, Spectrum Health System

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