The Problem

Hospitals have a lot of refrigerators.  For example, one of our clients operates an average sized hospital that has over 700 refrigerators within the facility.  As you can imagine, manually monitoring the operational status of these assets is a big job.  

Vaccine handling and storage has come to the forefront of public awareness in the wake of worldwide attention on the distribution of expensive and in-demand Covid-19 vaccines. Public health guidelines recommend daily monitoring of storage equipment and temperatures, as well as protocols and an audit log for cold chain breaks. Facilities are expected to identify out-of-range temperatures quickly and take immediate action to correct them to prevent any loss of vaccines. Furthermore, it is recommended that designated staff members have 24-hour access to vaccine storage units within buildings. Both protocols and training should be in place for the appropriate handling of vaccines during any cold chain break, including a disaster or power outage.

With the cost of a single dose of vaccine ranging from $3 to $37 USD, a fridge full of vaccine vials
holds significant value*. Public trust and institutional reputation are also important considerations for organizations who are charged with storing vaccine supply. 

The Standard Solution

Most hospitals have chosen some type of Environmental Monitoring Systems, either through the building management system or an IoT based solution to help monitor the many refrigerators located on-site.  These systems are relatively simple and use a rules-based decision engine.  If a refrigerator stops working, the systems generate alarms for either the Facilities Management of Biomedical teams and issue a ticket for it to be repaired.

This solution is entirely satisfactory if the refrigerator is only holding food or soft drinks.  But what if the refrigerator is holding something more important such as COVID vaccine? Generating an alarm in the building management system that is already overloaded, or  raising a ticket to an overworked maintenance team who may not get to the refrigerator immediately, is just not that helpful when a quick action is needed.

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A Case Study - How ThoughtWire Prevents Equipment Malfunctions Turning Into Costly Disasters

Here is a story from one of our clients and how ThoughtWire managed the situation differently.  The refrigerator that failed happened to contain very expensive cancer treatment drugs that required refrigeration to maintain efficacy.  But it is easy to imagine this scenario with a refrigerator full of COVID vaccine, as such instances have been reported from hospitals around the world. If a refrigerator fails without timely intervention, a number of patients would have to re-schedule their vaccination appointments until new vaccine could be sourced, not to mention an expensive loss of precious vaccine supply. 

Amy is a nurse working for a hospital that has installed ThoughtWire’s Smart Hospital platform which seamlessly integrates building and clinical systems for a single pane view of operations. ThoughtWire monitors dozens of refrigeration units across the hospital. These include the refrigerators in the cafeteria equipped with wireless data loggers for temperature monitoring, those storing popsicles on the ward for children who have had their tonsils out, and the purpose-built medical refrigeration units that store vaccines and medicines and are equipped with a variety of sensors.

During the night shift, ThoughtWire detects the temperature rising in one of the refrigeration units storing medication. ThoughtWire knows who is on-duty in closest  proximity to the refrigeration unit, and sends out a mobile Notification for someone to check the unit and confirm the situation – in this case Nurse Amy. Since the team responsible for the refrigerator are not physically on site during the night shift the Notification is escalated to the Facilities Manager, so he/she is aware of the situation.

Nurse Amy makes a visual check of the unit, checks there are no power issues, confirms the door is properly closed. Nurse Amy Logs this manual check in her ThoughtWire app to record the issue. Since the door is not the source of the problem and power is still available, she knows she must move the medication to another refrigeration unit until repairs are made. She consults the 3D floorplan of the hospital available on her ThoughtWire mobile app. The nearest appropriate refrigeration unit with capacity to house the medication is one floor below.

Amy’s access badge does not have security clearance for the zone where the 2nd fridge is located, so she sends an access request to her Manager through her mobile device. The solution can be programmed to operate with any access control workflows the hospital facility has in place, and Notifications can be sent to multiple cross-functional team members to ensure closed loop communications (security office, pharmacy teams etc).

When access to the target refrigerator zone is approved, the solution issues a temporary digital key badge that she can scan from her phone to give her temporary access. As part of the incident record, ThoughtWire records the time Amy unlocked the door, the time spent in the refrigeration zone relocating the medication, as well as the time she left the zone and the door locked behind her.

ThoughtWire makes it simple to report to Public Health organisations on cold chain incidents such as this. Operations Managers have at their fingertips, accurate and time-stamped incident reporting. Automating the logging and reporting of such incidents greatly eases the necessary but considerable administrative burden of these situations on medical facilities.

The next morning, with the medicines moved to a safe location, the Facilities Manager reviews the incident log for the evening prior and issues a digital Work Order to address the defect with the supplier of the refrigeration unit. A complete record of the incident and a map of the unit location are available to facilitate service contract maintenance. When the incident is resolved and the unit is working properly again, all relevant parties receive a Notification of the repair.

The ThoughtWire HighIQ Solution

Luckily, the Hospital had implemented ThoughtWire’s full solution including our Digital Twin and reasoning engine, which recommended a more intelligent solution.  ThoughtWire was able to connect the dots between key data points:  1) The refrigerator was malfunctioning and the temperature increasing quickly, and 2) the contents were very high priority and needed immediate action. This is even more important since incidents such as this can often happen after hours or on weekends, when only a skeleton facilities and maintenance staff is on-duty.

This example clearly demonstrates how ThoughtWire can result in a superior outcomes for hospitals and patients by being able to intelligently add context and meaning to physical data. Other systems might be smart, but only ThoughtWire is HighIQ Smart.


Register for our Smart Refrigeration Monitoring Webinar Wednesday June 23rd @ 10:00am


* Footnote: “How Much Will It Cost to Get a Covid Vaccine?”, Healthline, November 29, 2020, will-it-cost-to-get-a-covid-19-vaccine


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