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Healthcare Facilities Managers and the Statute of Repose

Healthcare Facilities Managers and the Statute of Repose

HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, has come to mean one thing to the average consumer: healthcare privacy. Medical information is kept strictly private, far from the prying eyes of journalists, employers, and neighborhood gossips. Many healthcare providers have come close to eliminating paper documents in their practices. Even if they use paper forms, the forms are imaged into an electronic healthcare record (EHR) with advanced crypto-security.

Healthcare facilities managers are concerned with HIPAA only insofar as they need to ensure sufficient storage space for paper documents, and adequate operational resources for the organization’s IT needs. But facilities managers, like healthcare professionals, generate a sizeable number of paper documents even when a building’s design originated on computers. And those documents have risk management implications just like patients’ documents.

Unlike patient documents, FM documents are generally very public. Drawings, permits, project schedules, punch lists – all are public, and subject to a legal doctrine called the Statute of Repose. The statute of repose is similar to the statute of limitations; it sets a limit on the amount of time a design client can hold a design/construction professional liable for errors. If there are any complaints or legal actions, all the supporting documents will be needed.

As a facilities manager (i.e., the client), you’ll want to retain all construction-related documents for at least the duration of the statute of repose, if not for several years beyond, as required by risk management policies. That’s a lot of paper, and it takes up a lot of storage space for a number of years. Plus, the paper documents have all the usual vulnerabilities of paper: fire, floods, pests, and pilferage, as well as loss or misfiling.

Digitization a healthcare facility’s documents offers the same advantages that come with imaged patient documents: compact storage, security, and information accessibility including authorized search and sharing. If there is a need to refer to any of these documents, they can be retrieved with electronic speed, much faster than a laborious hunt through numerous flat files.

Healthcare facilities managers are focused on the needs of their healthcare organization and the patients it serves. But when they include their own document conversion needs along with those of the other departments, they will gain efficiency and effectiveness that makes them even better at their work. And they are managing risks during the period of the statute of repose.

Secure DOD Agency – RFID

Secure DOD Agency – RFID

Increase Security for Technology Assets

A secure DOD Agency focuses on advanced research projects, with information restricted to research teams and superior officers. Much of their research data is stored on numerous laptops, tablets, and external drives. These media devices are all highly portable.

The Challenge

The media’s portability helped expedite this DOD agency’s work. Team members could take the media to different locations within the facility, or from office to home. But the portability also created a security issue. As teams and individuals moved around, these easy-to-carry devices were also easy to lose track of. The existing handwritten check-out system was far too error-prone. Expensive media devices could be misplaced or lost. Even more important, classified information was at risk.

The Solution

Working with National Office Systems’ SAM (Systematic Asset Management) division, the client installed an RFID system to monitor, track, and maintain the portable electronic media. Every media device was logged into the SAM software. An RFID tag with unique identifying information was generated and attached to each device. RFID doorway readers were installed to automatically record the date and time of every device’s removal and return, without a manual scan or check-out list. Each RFID tag included range permissions. Some devices could be used facility-wide, with doorway readers tracking their whereabouts. Other devices were restricted to specific areas. If one was removed beyond its assigned range, an alarm was triggered and armed security immediately secured the device. Installed in just 45 days, the RFID system has transformed the way this client manages its electronic media devices. Inventories are now a simple matter: Using a handheld RFID reader, one staffer can count the RFID-tagged contents of an entire room, with a single click of a button. Senior staff can monitor and track media assets simply by logging in to the RFID system. The software identifies which devices are due for maintenance and updates, and where they are. Today, this secure DOD Agency is saving the cost of staff time to track and inventory the media assets. They’re saving the cost of replacing lost or missing devices. They are able to redirect funds to fulfill their primary mission. And above all, they are guarding vital classified data from falling into the wrong hands. Download the PDF

Pharmaceutical Company

Pharmaceutical Company

Multiple Departments, Multiple Solutions

A fast-growing life science pharmaceutical company needed help with storage solutions. The company’s growth had overrun the available storage in several departments, and management was seeking ways to use space more efficiently. Each department had unique storage needs, requiring custom-tailored solutions to relieve the overcrowding and maintain smooth operations.

The Challenges

A fast-growing life science pharmaceutical company needed help with storage solutions. The company’s growth had overrun the available storage in several departments, and management was seeking ways to use space more efficiently. Each department had unique storage needs, requiring custom-tailored solutions to relieve the overcrowding and maintain smooth operations.

Two of the company’s departments managed a large quantity of paper documents in disparate sizes. The Quality Control department generated bulky binders of test files, and the Facilities department had numerous large-format architectural drawings. The test files and large floorplans pushed document storage to its limits, and hampered access to files.

A third department, HR, provided day-use lockers for staffers’ personal belongings. As hiring ramped up, lockers began to run out. New hires would soon have no place to store bags and outerwear.

Each department had a unique storage problem that needed equally unique solutions.

The Solutions

The NOS team recognized that a robust project management plan needed to be developed. The plan included needs analyses, prioritizing, and project milestones, ensuring a low-friction design and installation process – maximum efficiency, minimum disruption.

The Quality Control department was first in line for a storage makeover. The goals were to increase the storage capacity of the existing storage room, and to create an easy-to-use audit-proof document filing system. NOS set up a two-phase approach. First, the contents of each binder would be scanned into a digital “file cabinet.” The NOS team imaged each document into a secure searchable database via an OCR conversion process. The cloud-based library of imaged documents could now be quickly accessed to verify test results, equipment history, and SOP protocols.

In the QC department’s second phase, the NOS team’s needs analysis had discovered that the QC test documents were collected in standard three-inch 3-ring binders, far larger than necessary. Following the document digitization phase, the team moved the original paper documents into space-efficient binders with color-coded side tabs and bar labels that itemized the contents of each binder. This step improved test files’ findability and doubled the storage room’s capacity with high density mobile storage.

The Facilities department’s goal was somewhat different. Project drawings for the company’s older buildings were on unwieldy 24” and 36” blueprints. They were difficult to access, to revise and to store. The department wanted the hard-copy floorplans to be as easy to use and store as their newer buildings’ online CAD floorplans. The NOS team used a large-format scanner to digitize over 40 boxes of floorplans. Then they added indexing and metadata tags to create searchable “smart drawings” that identified spaces and showed the drawing’s revision history. After the document conversion process, the Facilities department’s staffers could reference and share any floorplan electronically, without having to retrieve cumbersome oversized drawings.

Human Resources’ goal was to support personnel by offering lockers for employees’ use. Unassigned day-use lockers had been installed some years earlier for staffers to store their personal items: electronics, purses, gym bags, and outwear. NOS’s needs analysis found that the ever-increasing staff headcount meant that lockers became less and less available. The NOS team installed keyless lockers on each floor to provide adequate personal storage now and into the future. Similar to amusement park or gym lockers, the day-use lockers let each staffer choose any open locker and set their own lock code. The lockers eliminated clutter and breakage in work areas, while giving employees peace of mind that their belongings were safely stored. An added bonus: Because the lockers were keyless, replacing lost keys was never an issue.

The storage solutions NOS provided didn’t stop with these three departments. Lab casework is another NOS specialty, and NOS furnished modular casework for several labs in the client’s facilities. As scientific work evolves and the storage needs of these labs change, the casework can be reconfigured to fit the new requirements. And when the company’s sensitive equipment, data drives, and paper documents needed extra protection, NOS installed fireproof storage for these hard-to-replace items.

This client was able to solve an array of storage problems with products offered by NOS. We pride ourselves on our access to the best quality manufacturers in the specialty storage industry. When storage solutions create efficient space utilization and file management, employees can dedicate their time to a better, faster product development outcome benefiting everyone.


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Test Conditions are Tough. RFID Tags Are Tougher

Test Conditions are Tough. RFID Tags Are Tougher

Experimental paradigms and QC testing put subjects through extreme conditions. Heat and cold, solvents, exceptionally high pressure – some or all of these may be applied in research. But if specimens can’t be identified with absolute accuracy, test results are questionable.

Paper labels can fall off. Ink can fade or smear. When researchers at NIH (National Institutes of Health) considered using RFID to identify specimens, they needed to find out if RFID tags could withstand the harsh conditions in labs.

Being researchers, they subjected a batch of RFID tags to the same rigorous tests they used with their other scientific investigations. The tags were put through repeated test cycles, including:

  • Wet and dry autoclave cycles with temperatures as high as 120 degrees centigrade (248 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Multiple exposures to tissue-staining chemicals hematoxylin and eosin
  • High temperatures of 75 degrees centigrade (167 degrees Fahrenheit) for 7 days
  • Cold temperatures as low as -196 degrees centigrade (-320 degrees Fahrenheit) for 12 months
  • Freeze-thaw cycles fluctuating between -196 degrees and 22 degrees centigrade (-320 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit)

The results? RFID tags are plenty tough. The researchers found them to be especially cold tolerant: Even after being frozen solid for one year, the tags still functioned perfectly.  And the tags subjected to freeze-thaw cycles also performed flawlessly even after 50 cycles. In fact, only two tags failed, one after 9 dry autoclave cycles and one after chemical exposure.

The researchers concluded that RFID tags were ideal for life-sciences specimen tracking, durable even in extreme test conditions. They suggested adding bar code labels as a back-up for dry-autoclave and chemical conditions, but emphasized the tags’ 100% tolerance for heat and cold – conditions that are common in many testing and bio-archiving processes, as well as pharmaceutical manufacturing and healthcare cryostorage.

What does this mean for other RFID applications? In more standard conditions – offices, warehouses, retail and manufacturing operations –  RFID functions flawlessly. And for lab settings with extreme conditions, RFID is a valuable tool for maintaining data integrity.

Scientists value accuracy, but they’re not the only ones. Every business relies on accurate information, no matter the circumstances, the products, or the services. RFID delivers, every time.

Labs: No Two Alike, Except for These Three Things

Labs: No Two Alike, Except for These Three Things

“There is no one-size-fits-all,” says Gensler Research, regarding lab design and adaptive reuse. Like people, each lab has its own unique purpose and form. A lab, unlike typical office space, may have to take into account ventilation, vibration, volatile chemicals, greater-than-usual utilities requirements, or dangers to workers and the general public, to name just a few of their special challenges.

But no matter what type of lab yours may be, from analytics and QC to biohazard or R&D, these three operational elements help any lab fulfill its mission.

Storage cabinets and casework – Cluttered labs are unsafe labs. Whatever the science specialty, whatever the experimental design, every lab needs to protect items from contamination, damage, loss, or degradation:

  • Equipment
  • Chemicals
  • Documents
  • Electronics
  • Test and experimental supplies
  • Researchers’ personal items

Your current lab storage may be perfect for your processes today. But once a research phase comes to an end, the layout and type of storage may not fit the next phase. Labs outfitted with modular casework can reconfigure their storage to suit the new functions, rather than scrapping the existing storage – a benefit to the budget and the environment.

Data management – The essence of scientific investigation is the collection and management of data. Paper documents may be the only option in some labs, especially if electronics interfere with experimental processes. But data on paper takes time to access and analyze, and paper itself is a fragile medium. Document digitization converts paper-based data to electronic data for fast, easy use. Moreover, it preserves the data in a secure form, controlling accessibility and preventing the loss of invaluable information.

Equipment and materials management – Labs’ budgets can skyrocket when expensive equipment is lost. Time-dependent research can be wasted when materials can’t be located in inventory. And hand-written inventories are notoriously error-prone, not to mention an expensive use of researchers’ time. RFID asset management systems take the burden off researchers by automatically tracking quantities and whereabouts of these vital components. Equipment is easy to find, and there’s never a shortage of essential elements.

All three of these design and operations technologies contribute to safe and efficient lab functionality. Just as important, they have a positive effect on your lab’s bottom line, saving time and money. It’s not theoretical; it’s proven. Talk to a storage and organization consultant and review the options.


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