In health care facilities pneumatic tube system [PTS] offers an efficient and worthy solution to their key transportation issues. For this it is crucial to design a successful network layout to offer good performance.
In a hospital building with furthest extent to around 500-800m spaced out, a well-designed PTS network will deliver each transaction in less than 10 minutes, while some take only 3 to 5 minutes. With prioritizing some transactions, the delivery time of hospital tube carriers can be faster.
Performance can be really achieved but, in many installations, performance get compromised in the name of cost-savings. Such decisions are due to lack of understanding that a deliberately missed out specification can impact the PTS network’s overall performance.
Other aspect is the size and complexities of the PTS network that escalates the scope of poor design. In an attempt to remove inefficiencies new ones, get introduced. For example, due to cost limitations, it was determined that several groups share a station that was located in the centre part of the hospital.
So, the possibility that shared station demand can be higher than the capacity of the station to offer services. Therefore, the potential outcome of this situation is inefficiency, frustration, and disruption.
- The user has to wait for carrier to become available.
- As the user is not familiar with how much time they need to wait they return to their regular tasks.
- Later, the user revisits but there is no assurance that the station will not be busy.
- Frustration may make the user actually replace the carrier.
You see how crucial it is to plan a shared station after getting familiar with the combined use frequency, so as to alleviate such scenario.
Key design criteria
Three main problems need to be considered while designing an efficient PTS network.
- Determine what is going to be transported through the PTS.
- Evaluate how hospital staff will use the system and calculate the potential carrier traffic.
- Design a network to deal with the calculated or envisioned traffic.
Common experience PTS network designers have come across is that hospital admin is aware that installation of pneumatic tube system is beneficial but are unaware of exactly what will they use the network to transport.
Undoubtedly, the PTS network will transport blood samples but other potential payload may include pharmacy items, documentation, blood tissue, etc. some categorisation will be needed to design the PTS network properly.
- How many samples are urgent?
- What is the origin – is it from inpatient wards or outpatient clinic?
- How much is the sample volume?
After considering what needs to be transported consider work practice associated. For example, Special baby care unit or Casualty are areas to be categorised as urgent and user will send one sample per carrier for instant attention.
On the other hand, OPDs display regular sample flow generated all day, so samples will be batched in a suitable payload and transported to lab every 10 minutes. Samples from inpatients will be batched according to the wards and transported from nearest station.
Blood samples that transfer between labs will be categorised in different sample types. All this can create confusion, so it is necessary to get familiar with the working of this process before planning a design.
Technology is not complex but designing stage needs great care for the PTS to deliver best performance!