Date: 4/16/2010

New Technology at hospitals of Community Healthcare System places spotlight on safe blood Collection

New technology, called SoftID, gives patients at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System extra reassurance that their samples are being labeled and processed properly.

Patients who are hospitalized are getting fewer needle sticks for blood tests and extra reassurance that their samples are being labeled and processed properly thanks to new technology available at Community Hospital in Munster; St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago; and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart.

The three hospitals of the Community Healthcare System have introduced its newest safety initiative with a technology known as SoftID, further expanding the use of bar coding technology for laboratory testing. Last year, the Central Laboratory joined a handful of hospital laboratories across the nation to use specimen tracking technology to permanently identify every single surgical tissue cassette and slide by a bar code, from check-in through log-out. The bar code tracking system virtually eliminates the possibility of a patient’s tissue sample being mixed up with another patient’s tissue sample and helps the pathologist provide a more accurate diagnosis.

“SoftID is another example of the steps we are taking to provide the very best care possible to our patients on a daily basis,” said John Gorski, Chief Operating Officer for Community Healthcare System. “We’ve set the bar higher in terms of safety and comfort and, our patients are realizing the benefits.”

The SoftID handheld, wireless mobile system is used by phlebotomists (specialists who draw a patient’s blood) to scan a patient’s armband and double-check their identity at the bedside. Collection labels are printed out and then attached to the specimen container as each sample is drawn.

Previously during a routine blood draw, the patient’s identity - name and date-of-birth - was corroborated and verified against a pre-printed label from the laboratory. Those labels were matched to the patient through identification at the bedside and then transported back to the lab for processing.

With the new SoftID technology, after first verbally confirming the patient’s identity, the phlebotomist enters their name and date-of-birth into the handheld wireless device (either by keying it in or scanning the wristband). Matching information appears on the screen and then prints on a label, which is attached to the container with the blood sample drawn from the patient. SoftID protects against errors and mislabeling if the patient’s wristband has been removed, has partially missing information or illegible information because of the manual key in option.

“We want to ensure that our patients feel safe in our care,” says Ethel Urbi, system director, Community Healthcare System Central Laboratory. “With the new SoftID system, our patients get to see their own blood drawn and labeled with a matching bar code number before going on to the laboratory for processing.”

Another benefit is the ability to capture up-to-the minute information on tests that may be ordered by multiple physicians. In the past, a patient may have to undergo a second or even third needle stick to draw blood samples if new orders came in after the phlebotomist left the laboratory. By using SoftID, orders for blood tests are communicated electronically to the device carried by the phlebotomist to the patient’s room reducing the need for repeated needle sticks should new tests be ordered.

While the system is currently being used by lab phlebotomists drawing blood, it will soon be used by nurses in the ED and on all inpatient floors and units during blood collection. Eventually, the technology will be applied to all specimens, not just blood samples, collected at the bedside, including urine, etc. at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System.

For more information about the innovative programs and cutting-edge technologies making a difference in the lives of patients at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System: Community Hospital in Munster; St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart, please visit our web site at