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Cold-Chain Management and the Use of TempTale Technology

Shipping class VIII (medical materiel) supplies overseas can be a tricky operation. Sending them overseas and requiring that they be maintained at the right temperature throughout the journey is an even greater challenge. Trying to get temperature-controlled shipments of class VIII to Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Horn of Africa in the dead of summer is the greatest challenge of all.

At the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center, Europe (USAMMCE), the Distribution and Transportation Division (D&T) receives, repackages, and ships hundreds of thousands of refrigerated items per year, including vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and laboratory and imaging reagents. Refrigerated packages range from as small as an office telephone to as large as a Xerox printer. Specific guidelines dictate how each package is to be packed, depending on the estimated outside temperature that the package will be subjected to and the amount of time the package is likely to be in transit.

Each package is loaded with a TempTale RF [radio frequency] monitor. (The monitor is produced by Sensitech, a business unit of Carrier Corporation.) These monitors, which are slightly smaller than a deck of cards, periodically record the temperature inside the package. When a product arrives at its final destination, the recipient is able to see if the temperature inside the package has remained within the temperature range set for refrigerated items. If a package arrives “out of range,” the information is sent to USAMMCE’s Clinical Advisory Division (CAD) whose clinical staff determines whether or not the product is still viable for use. The process is highly effective and has become a mechanism for confidently managing the cold-chain continuity required to successfully ship temperature-controlled items.

With hundreds of TempTale monitors travelling to destinations throughout the world, a system had to be developed that would comprehensively track and record the readings and disposition of each temperature-controlled package that was shipped from a USAMMCE dock. Leaders from D&T and CAD met with USAMMCE’s website designer and laid out the requirements for a TempTale Monitor Control system. In short order, the designer produced a comprehensive program that was introduced to USAMMCE.

The TempTale Monitor Control system is a Microsoft Access-based program that allows USAMMCE to monitor, track, and provide clinical disposition on all cold-chain material received by and shipped from the USAMMCE distribution center. The main menu of the database is divided into three sections: the receiving section, refrigeration section, and CAD. Though each section’s portal contains different data, they interact to provide an overall picture of the shipping and storage temperature of temperature-managed material while en route to and from USAMMCE facilities.

The ability to monitor a transportation or supply vendor’s and USAMMCE’s cold-chain management success rate is now only a mouse-click away. This capability allows D&T to track the amount of temperature-controlled packaging material it needs to maintain the proper environment and to adjust packaging for future shipments to similar areas with similar weather conditions. The TempTale Monitor Control system provides USAMMCE with the capability to anticipate packaging needs by learning from the historical data collected and empowers it to further benefit its customers.

When asked about the importance of ensuring that temperature-controlled items arrive within the correct temperature range at their destination, Lieutenant Colonel John Bailey, USAMMCE’s D&T chief, stated, “USAMMCE ships over 25,000 pounds of cold-chain medical products and vaccines annually that must be delivered to our customers within 72 hours. For refrigerated and frozen medical products, it is imperative that our packing and shipping protocols are followed exactly to ensure our customers are receiving viable products. USAMMCE has always been on the forefront of developing cold-chain packing protocols.”

The TempTale Monitor Control system provides a mechanism to measure and report temperature data to ensure that packaging protocols are effective. As medical materiel advances in sophistication, it often requires greater environmental control, and the importance of accurately tracking, recording, and processing data for temperature-sensitive items continues to increase. The TempTale Monitor Control system is essential to managing this logistics requirement.

Future updates and added features will continue to keep this system operating as a dynamic resource that adds a new component to the transport of temperature-controlled medical materiel. It gives the user confidence that the product has been packaged, shipped, and received in an environment that meets the strict requirements of the manufacturer so that the product can be used to help the fighting force downrange and beneficiaries serving overseas.

Colonel Mitchell E. Brew is the commander of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center, Europe (USAMMCE), in Pirmasens, Germany. He holds a B.S. degree in business management from the State University of New York at Buffalo, an M.S. degree in information systems from the University of Southern California, an M.H.A. degree from Baylor University, an M.B.A. degree from George Washington University, and an M.S. degree in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He is a member of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals and a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Major Michael Ronn is the chief of the Clinical Advisory Division at USAMMCE in Pirmasens. He holds a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Mercer University Southern School of Pharmacy.

Petty Officer First Class Summer Webb, USN, is a hospital corpsman first class assigned to the Naval Medical Logistics Command detachment at Pirmasens. She serves as the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the Clinical Advisory Division at USAMMCE. She is a graduate of the Navy Pharmacy Technician School and was honored as the Navy’s Senior Pharmacy Technician of the Year in 2008.


 
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