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IoT protects vaccines in Aintree

12/11/21

Mark Chillingworth

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Aintree Primary Care Network (PCN) is using internet of things (IoT) sensors to guarantee that vaccines, including that for Covid-19, are stored correctly and therefore protecting the local population.

Remote sensors on refrigerators allow Aintree PCN to monitor the temperature that vaccines are stored at and guarantee that the vaccine is constantly kept at the correct temperature.

The PCN, which is made up of four GP practices serving a community of 38,000 residents, had to store vaccines at a non-NHS site, the Aintree community centre. This meant Aintree PCN needed additional assurances that the vaccines were stored under the right conditions.

“Maintaining the correct cold chain – a network of temperature-controlled environments – is critical to the integrity and effectiveness of all vaccines,” said Sharon Poll, manager of the Aintree PCN.  “We wanted to limit the risk of something going wrong, and the risk of wastage, as much as possible. We were manually recording temperatures twice daily, though the gold standard is to monitor temperatures continually,” Poll said of the need for a more innovative way to protect the validity of the vaccines. 

“The system has given us great peace of mind,” Poll said of the implementation of Invisible Systems IoT sensors, which features a small box with an antenna fitted to the outside of a fridge that links to a sensor inside the refrigerators used by the PCN to remotely monitor and report temperature changes.

“We’re required to maintain the stability of the vaccine from the moment it arrives with us until the moment it goes into someone’s arm. The fridge we use for the Covid vaccine hasn’t failed, but if it did it would send an instant alert to a mobile phone and an email.

“We now have the system set up for our non-Covid fridges, and whenever those have moved out of their temperature ranges, we have been alerted immediately and have been able to put it right very quickly. It’s a really simple system to set up, and it’s given us the assurance that none of the vaccines will be wasted. It is an integral part of our business continuity plan.”

“It can make a call or send a text out of hours, and at weekends to key-holders, which is an amazingly good use of technology and hugely welcome,” said Una Harding, PCN pharmacist based at Aintree Park group practice. Harding added that IoT is reducing the risk of error too: “This system monitors all our fridges and frees up time and reduces errors where fridge resets have not been done correctly.”

Cumbria based Invisible Systems was brought to the attention of Aintree PCN by a colleague using the Innovation Agency Exchange, an online forum operated by the Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) for the North West Coast. AHSNs operate as the innovation arm of the NHS, providing information and local networks for health providers and technology producers.

“This is exactly what the Exchange is designed to do – it bridges the gap between innovators in the commercial sector and the health and care system,” said Laura Boland, innovation insight manager at the Innovation Agency Exchange.

Image from iStock, MarianVejcik

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