Cabinet-wide temperature consistency is a game-changer for critical pharmaceutical cold storage needs.
Extreme temperatures and temperature changes can have negative effects on pharmaceutical products that range from reduced efficacy to toxicity, rendering the drugs unusable. Of particular concern to hospital pharmacy managers is the degradation of high-cost chemotherapeutics, biologics, and factor products.
Pharmacy managers have long relied on refrigerators to safely store temperaturesensitive medications. But even dedicated refrigeration units require vigilant monitoring, since swings in temperature can result from opening a door too frequently or for too long, and because different shelves in a particular unit may vary in degrees.
To answer the need for stable, reliable, and uniform temperature control, Follett, a leader in medical-grade refrigeration, has developed high-performance, plenumcooled upright units designed specifically for pharmacy use.
Oklahoma State University Medical Center (OSUMC) is a 195-bed teaching hospital located in downtown Tulsa. When John Bury, Pharm.D., stepped into the OSUMC Director of Pharmacy role in 2014, the refrigeration equipment he inherited was functional, but clearly older.
“The units had been there probably 25 years or more. They were solid, but then one gave out,” Bury recalled. “I knew we could manage being down one refrigerator, but if we were to lose another — well, you’re talking about a lot of high-dollar items subject to loss.”
Bury thoroughly researched the available options on the market — as well as the practical matter of upkeep. “Early on, when we were doing the analysis, I talked to our maintenance group. They would be the ones servicing the units,” he said, “and Follett came up very high on their list.”
Other departments in the hospital had previously adopted Follett refrigerators. The OSUMC maintenance team, familiar with the brand, cited the ease of working on the units and their known longevity. A key feature that set Follett apart from a maintenance standpoint is the ability to remove the entire top-mounted refrigeration module for routine service or repair. This design allows a replacement module to be easily installed if needed, essentially eliminating unit downtime.
Beyond the maintenance and reliability plusses, choosing Follett resulted in notable upgrades to features that benefit the pharmacy every day.
Perhaps the most powerful advantage of the Follett units is their superior ability to maintain consistent and precise temperature control. “One of the things you notice looking at the older logs with staff tracking temperatures two times a day, is that you can see fluctuations,” Bury said. “With the Follett products, there is very little fluctuation.”
Temperature recovery is another strong advantage, particularly for a busy pharmacy department. “On the old units, you would grab your items and the unit would start to alarm because of temperature drop, and it would only slowly recover,” Bury said. “If I’m in the fridge now, and I’m batching, I don't worry as much about temperature fluctuations as I know the unit is quick to recover.”
This caliber of temperature consistency and recovery doesn’t happen by accident. Follett upright refrigerators and freezers feature the industry’s most advanced airflow design, utilizing unique plenums that deliver cold air directly to each storage level. Multiple pathways for cool air ensure consistent temperature throughout the unit, regardless of loaded shelves, drawers, and large or odd-sized packaging.
Follett’s unique design places the cooling system external to the cabinet. Cooled air is distributed simultaneously to multiple levels and locations throughout the unit, as opposed to being pumped in via one primary entry point and reliance on dissipation. This comprehensive delivery of cool air to every point within the unit removes any concerns about temperature consistency, leaving more focus for other tasks.
"The temperature that [the Follett unit] says it is, is the temperature throughout the whole machine,” Bury said. “This offers peace of mind more than anything. When [a refrigeration unit] is working like it should, it just makes your life so much easier. When you have a system that doesn’t work, you have to spend a lot of time trying to mitigate fluctuations.”
Other Follett features include modern technological functionality. Intuitive, full-color, 7-inch touchscreens allow users easy access to programmable tools and settings, such as temperature alarming. Some Follett units also offer WiFi connectivity, which allows for easy remote monitoring. The 24/7 visibility of temperature excursions gives pharmacy managers the ability to make any necessary corrections before sensitive inventory is affected.
OSUMC ended up replacing all of their pharmacy-dedicated refrigerators, including three upright 25-cubic-foot units and 19 smaller units. “All of the units that store medications in our hospital are now medical-grade,” Bury said, “and, specifically, they are all Follett units.”
New practice and quality standards for handling hazardous drugs in healthcare settings, known as USP 800, are slated for official implementation on December 1, 2019. These standards require dedicated storage for hazardous medications in order to promote patient safety, worker safety, and environmental protection. “We don’t do a ton of chemo, but enough to need a stock on hand,” Bury said. OSUMC now has a 5-cubic-foot undercounter Follett unit on site, already addressing the new requirement for secure, separate storage.
The medical center is also participating in beta testing of Follett’s newest double-door
refrigerators. The double-door units are larger, providing more flexibility for storing
expanded inventory without sacrificing efficiency. The plenum airflow feature is just
as reliable in the larger units. “Even though the double-door unit is bigger, it’s still
excellent at maintaining consistent temperatures,” Bury said.
This post is related to:Refrigeration/Refrigerators