No pharmacy, hospital, or laboratory can undermine the need for cold storage units for storing drugs and vaccines. The cold storage units, commonly known as refrigerators, create optimal environments for preserving medicines and vaccines, extending their shelf-lives.
It will help if you keep in mind that household refrigerators cannot correctly protect medicines or vaccines, so they are not suitable for clinics or laboratories. Medical refrigerators are specially designed for properly storing and preserving such items. So, do not try to save money by going for a household refrigerator to entail drastic results in terms of damaging the items.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines medical refrigerators and freezers as purpose-built units to store biological material. The Immunization Action Coalition recommends vaccines to be stored in a medical refrigerator or freezer designed to hold biological products. Also, ensure that the medical refrigerator you purchase conforms to the CDC guidelines. If you need cold storage to store items that require very cold environments, you can go for ultra-low temperature freezer.
The moot question is why you should invest in such cold storage units for your healthcare facility? The following are the reasons:
Medical refrigerators enable maintaining optimum temperature environments. The refrigerators provide temperature-controlled storage facilities to protect vaccines, blood transfusions, and biological materials. Simultaneously, the refrigerators also prolong the shelf-life of the items.
Healthcare facilities lose USD 20 million annually on average due to cold-chain failures, and improper refrigeration leads to the damage of 35 percent of vaccines annually.
If you store the items in poor storage conditions, such as overexposure to heat, cold, or light, they can lose potency. Once the potency is lost, the items get damaged, and you cannot use them for patients.
However, not all medical facility owners take adequate care to invest in proper cold storage, leading them to administer compromised doses to people unknowingly. And such these doses do not work at all. Simultaneously, people also lose trust in such vaccines as they then need another vaccine in such a case. Moreover, it also poses a danger to people as they might refuse revaccination and remain unprotected from preventable diseases.
Medical facility owners should use medical refrigerators with temperature monitors to avoid temperature fluctuations if they arise.
Medical refrigerators can maintain temperature more consistently than household refrigerators to store vaccines in a proper environment. With compressors, medical refrigerators can attain target temperatures faster. Medical refrigerators’ door also seals tighter than their domestic counterparts.
Accurate Temperature Monitoring and Alarm Systems
Unlike household units, medical refrigerators can monitor temperatures more accurately due to external Temperature Monitoring Devices (TMD). And it also allows you to monitor the internal temperature without opening the door and maintain an accurate temperature history that reflects the characteristic vaccine temperature. It is a crucial advantage of medical refrigerators that helps to protect the vaccines.
It will help if you use a TMD that is with digital data loggers (DDL), which provide details about the duration of the unit operating outside the recommended temperature limits. And if the temperatures go out of the recommended ranges, DDL will set off an alarm signal.
Smooth Air Flow
Household refrigerators can prevent air circulation due to the presence of glass shelves. The design is appropriate for preserving food, but not for medicines and vaccines as the internal temperature is uneven due to restricted air circulation.
In contrast, medical refrigerators’ design allows adequate airflow in the interior with robust fan-forced air circulation systems with air-cooling vents. With internal shelving systems, air circulates uniformly throughout the interior to maintain optimum temperature. The shelving systems come with perforated ventilation holes to assist airflow.
Moreover, there are also built-in systems that include drawers with solid fronts and wire interiors. The systems provide ambient temperature and air circulation to protect vaccines and other sensitive items.
Many medical refrigerators also bear an alarm system that alerts the staff when airlocks are not sealed or the door is not correctly closed.
Ensure that your staff adjusts the temperature of the refrigerator before using the automated tracking system. Also, ask your staff not to overfill the refrigerator to prevent any blockage of airflow. Ideally, the unit has to be around 30 percent full.
Protection Against Power Failures
Even if you store the items in the appropriate equipment with temperature monitoring mechanisms, there are chances of them getting damaged in power failures. You should not fall behind in maintaining an onsite generator, and ensure that you have enough fuel to run the generator for at least 72 hours.
Medical refrigerators do away with the need for having an onsite generator as they come with battery backups to provide electricity during power failures. As such, the refrigerators protect the items by preventing temperature rises. During power failures, keep the refrigerator doors closed to prevent any fluctuation in the internal temperature. Also, maintain a second battery backup system for you to use in case the first one fails.
It is also advisable to test and service the backup batteries quarterly to ensure they work without any glitches.
As a medical facility owner, you should not fall behind in investing in a medical refrigerator that will keep medicines and vaccines at the optimum temperature to preserve them in a safe condition.