Improper temperature control is a leading cause of lost vaccine supplies. When vaccines aren’t maintained at the proper temperature (typically 2-8 degrees Celsius/35-46 degrees Fahrenheit), they quickly lose potency. The CDC’s 2014 Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit, which provides vaccine storage and handling best practices, recommends using a temperature monitoring system for every medical storage unit to best avoid losing valuable vaccine supplies.
Continual monitoring systems provide an automated solution for temperature monitoring and alarming needs for pharmacy manufacturing facilities. These systems feature internal temperature sensors (or connect with external sensors) to record the ambient temperature of the manufacturing environment and can also log temperature data of storage unit interiors where vaccines are kept. These systems store data in a variety of ways with a view to satisfying regulatory requirements regarding vaccine safety.
A continual monitoring system can handle temperature monitoring, alarming and data storage — all with a view to protecting products and proving best practices. Data can be stored to internal memory, flash drive or even uploaded to a cloud storage web service. For example, a wireless system can remotely monitor any healthcare environment using medical storage units.
Many businesses and facilities are still new to this technology and are initially unsure of which of the many systems and manufacturers on the market to choose for their application. If you’re considering a monitoring system to help keep you in compliance, your search can be made easier by considering the following short list of questions:
What sensor type do you want to use?
Temperature data loggers are a cost-effective way to monitor temperature in vaccine storage units or the ambient temperature in storage areas. Environmental monitoring is also a useful way to ensure you get an alarm when HVAC systems fail.
Most temperature data loggers have inputs for specific sensor types. If you already know the temperature sensor type you plan to use, this will help narrow down your search. Many systems use the different types of sensors including RTDs, thermistors or thermocouples (by type). Specific systems such as these are typically lower cost than those which take data from several sensor types.
If you don’t know which sensor types you’d like to use, there are many universal systems flexible enough to log data from many different sensor types.
You can also use a glycol buffer vial to stabilize your temperature readings. Many temperature probes are small enough to fit inside medical fridges and freezers, so they’re easy to place for reliable readings. When selecting a sample rate, taking a reading every 15-30 minutes is fine. More than that will fill up the logger’s memory too fast.
How do you want to store/retrieve data?
CDC regulations mandate that those storing vaccines need to not only log, but also store the temperature history electronically. Many kinds of data loggers can store vaccine temperature data, ranging from a single-channel USB temperature data logger to multi-channel temperature monitoring systems with sophisticated alarming and offsite, secure cloud-based data storage.
Cloud storage is convenient as it enables users to download measurement data for offline analysis, and view it in reports, charts and graphs. Administrators can modify the system configuration online from any Internet-enabled location. Data online can easily be downloaded as a CSV file and loaded into most database applications.
Cloud storage services typically charge on a monthly or yearly basis, although a few manufacturers offer a limited amount of free space.
Wired or wireless?
Given your building’s particular network or lack thereof, you may want either a wired or a wireless system to give you access to your data. Ethernet and WiFi are two popular choices, respectively. Your facility’s physical layout and resultant wireless range may be a factor. Consider where the datalogger and/or wireless gateway would need to be installed. Many models of datalogger can operate on either battery or AC power.
The systems come in both WiFi and LAN-wired versions allowing you to continually monitor temperature in a refrigerator or freezer and also providing customized alarming and data storage.
Wireless dataloggers can take the form of standalone pods or wireless repeaters transmitting data to a nearby wireless gateway which sends it out to the Web. When specifying your system, be sure that its indoor wireless range is wide enough to cover the area under monitoring. Some pods can act as repeaters to boost the wireless signal.
What level of alarm capability is needed?
When considering a system to monitor vaccine supplies, automated alarming is the most important feature to weigh. Nowadays there’s no excuse for missing an alarm when you can receive alarms and view data online from your mobile device.
First, decide what you need — local or remote alarm capability? If you need visual alarms, diagnostic LEDs show the room’s current environmental status. Some monitoring systems are audible/visual only, some can even go out to emails or even place phone calls to designated personnel.
A few alarm systems automatically send email, SMS text message, pager or phone sequentially dialed voice messages. Many can also send alarm notifications in case of power or Internet outages, which is a godsend when your medical storage units fail at 3 a.m.! In case of outages, make sure that the logger has a data buffer so it’ll keep recording if your power or Internet goes out, or at least an alarm to indicate this.
Continual monitoring systems are an ideal way to monitor medical storage units and help protect your vaccine supplies, meet regulatory requirements and ensure patient safety. Whether you want to go wireless or wired, a single system will record temperature readings, transmit alarms, and store and download data. By reviewing your wish list of features, you’ll arrive at the ideal system configuration for your specific vaccine monitoring application.