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TranspoNet – how automated transport enhances processes at the University Hospital Bonn


Uwe Hogartz
14 June 2024
Hospital
Reading Time: 4 min.
On average, 1,400 transports are sent via the pneumatic tube system at the University Hospital Bonn (UKB) every day. 145 stations and a tube network with a total length of 17 kilometers allows the sending of goods to any ward. The system was designed as a loop so that deliveries always reach their destination, even in case of breakdown on a certain line. For the hospital employees, the installation of the system brings along two decisive advantages: It is extremely time-efficient, therefore the quality of patient care improves.

We asked three experts from different areas to share their experience with the pneumatic tube system at the University Hospital Bonn.

  • Carolin Metzner (Medical Technologist in the lab, UKB),
  • Charlotte Kaspari (Head of Facility Management, UKB) and
  • Björn Gernoth (Head of Department Healthcare Logistics, Ramboll)

 

will provide insights into their personal experience with the pneumatic tube system at UKB (Germany).

How is TranspoNet part of everyday life at the hospital and which requirements does it have to fulfill?

Particular rules apply to the transport of medical goods to ensure patient safety. A pneumatic tube system can help comply with such rules and avoid human errors.

Carolin Metzner:
At UKB, we record a high sample throughput. Those samples need to reach the lab fast and, most importantly, intact. The majority are sent via the pneumatic tube system; as soon as they arrive, samples are automatically sorted into two separate bins, depending on priority, distributed to the workplace and analyzed accordingly.

Lab samples have to be treated with caution as the pre-analytical part is critical: If something goes wrong in this phase, analysis results might be impacted, resulting in inadequate treatment for the patient in the worst case. Blunt impacts or shocks during transport represent a serious risk. By sending samples in pneumatic tube carriers, constant speeds and standardized pressure can be guaranteed – samples will reach us fast and intact. Not only does the pneumatic tube system take some of the work off our hands, but it also contributes to the quality of samples.

Carolin Metzner (Medical Technologist in the lab, UKB)

Which advantages does the system offer?

Pneumatic tube systems are a well-established practice. Together with new software, it is an irreplaceable solution, offering countless advantages compared to manual speciemen transport: Transport is faster, can be tracked at all times and the risk of damaged or lost samples is considerably lower.

Charlotte Kaspari:
The system itself is basically self-explanatory. After a two-hour introduction, users are familiar with the most important features. After that, it takes some time before everyone has really gotten used to the pneumatic tube system, but they are quickly convinced of its benefits. They can no longer imagine working at UKB without it.

Carolin Metzner:
I wouldn’t want to go back to working without the tube system. It has become irreplaceable because of constantly growing sample throughput. Each sample has to reach the lab in time because patients' lives depend on it. It only took two weeks before I felt confident using the system. It’s really easy and uncomplicated to understand. I notice how much time we can save, which is the biggest plus for me.

Charlotte Kaspari (Head of Facility Management, UKB)

How do you plan a tube system for a hospital of such size?

During the planning process, the institution should keep in mind that the number of transports is crucial. How many samples have to be transported per day and what is the long-term goal? It wouldn’t make sense to plan the system according to current maximum throughput. Instead, it should be designed to deal with possibly rising numbers in the future. This forward-looking approach is useful to respond to increasing needs. The TranspoNet system can grow with additions to the site, new tubes and stations and can cover future requirements.

Björn Gernoth:
A team that works well together during planning and on site is essential. The planning period extends to at least five years before the beginning of installation work. As changing team members and contacts are involved and requirements or needs might change over the course of years, good coordination is indispensable. It's an interesting challenge that constantly evolves. At UKB, the vision was clear from the beginning: The system was to be made adaptable to future additions on campus. A great number of tubes and capacities were taken into account during the planning phase. Before starting, a hospital has to know exactly how internal processes are structured and how the tube system fits in. The staff need proper introduction to familiarize themselves with the new system.

Björn Gernoth (Head of Department Healthcare Logistics, Ramboll)

What does the feedback to the automated transport solution look like?

In the beginning, you might not be taken seriously when opting for a long-existing system. As soon as it is implemented, the benefits will show. The UKB employees wouldn't want to work without it anymore.

Carolin Metzner:
We can now better time and organize our processes in the lab. Also, samples are automatically sorted and prioritized, facilitating our work. My colleagues and I are beyond happy to have the tube system. Working without it? Unimaginable.

Charlotte Kaspari:
The feedback is positive. Initially there were some doubts about the new and unfamiliar system. The aspect of saving lots of time convinced the employees, and especially in the central lab, technicians love it.

Well-established system – also in the future

The pneumatic tube system has been in use for quite some time – without any alternatives emerging. New technologies and adaptations to individual needs will make it last in the future.

Thank you to Carolin Metzner, Charlotte Kaspari and Björn Gernoth for sharing your experience.

About the author

Uwe Hogartz, Product Manager, TranpoNet pneumatic tube system.


More about Uwe Hogartz
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