Some medicines — and most vaccines — need to be stored within a specific temperature range, usually between 2°C and 8°C, which keeps them stable.
Vaccines in particular need to stay within this range in order to be able to affect the immune system. If they get too hot, their immunogenicity is diminished. When the temperature gets too cold, the diluent, can freeze and this can destroy the vaccine.
As a result, medicines and vaccines must be kept within a tight temperature range from the moment they are produced right up until they are used to avoid costly wastage.
It is therefore critical that practice staff monitor fridge and room temperatures. This is most often performed manually by staff with a thermometer and logbook.
In the hope of a better way Invisible Systems was developed to enable virtual temperature monitoring, reduce the amount of time spent manually monitoring fridge temperatures and improve insight into energy usage.
“Traditional methods do not give intel into temperature issues, particularly over the weekend and many times we would find breaches have happened when arriving back at work on a Monday”. – Practice Manager from one of the Suffolk Primary Care GP Practices.
Invisible Systems enables practices to virtually monitor temperature control of medicines stored in fridges. Fridge temperature data is collected via wireless sensors and presented via a dashboard that also includes facility electricity and gas usage. Eastern AHSN supported Suffolk Primary Care (SPC), a partnership of 14 GP Practices covering over 130,000 patients, to pilot Invisible Systems in primary care. Key areas of interest for SPC were in:
Eastern AHSN supported the implementation of Invisible Systems across SPC between May 2020 and September 2021. This included governance advice to ensure milestones were met and risk management strategies put in place to mitigate risk at all stages of the project.
Project management support was also provided, as well as convening stakeholder meetings, conducting evaluation interviews and performing data analysis to capture learnings for the evaluation case study. Eastern AHSN is now able to use the key lessons of implementing Invisible Systems across primary care settings to consider whether the project may be scaled up across other areas in the East of England.
Although the pilot was initially planned to last two years, the early positive feedback led SPC to adopt Invisible Systems into their routine practice across all 14 GP practices after 16 months, removing the need for staff to manually monitor fridge temperatures.
The system was found to offer beneficial insights into energy usage allowing individual and multi-sites to see where they can become smarter, greener and more cost effective, particularly with regards to staff time. In one practice, the data suggests that the Invisible Systems monitors resulted in an estimated saving of 273 hours and 36 minutes of staff time per year, equivalent to approximately £3,500 of health care assistant (HCA) costs.
Based on this data Eastern AHSN forecasts suggest (across the entire region) Invisible Systems monitors could save practices over 12,000 hours annually, which is equivalent to an approximated £160,000 in efficiency savings.
The evaluation did not show a reduction in medicines wastage insurance claims post-implementation. The number of insurance claims in the year before the pilot was very low, providing an ineffective baseline, and historical data beyond that was unavailable. The value of medicines claimed for was actually higher in the year after implementation compared to the year before (from £3,607 to £4,358), but in both years this equated to two incidents.
The evaluation was limited by a small sample of interviewees and lack of data from participating practices — both of which were caused by limited capacity in primary care during the time of the pilot due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the feedback collected has been positive:
“Trust in the software is important, and I trust Invisible Systems, mainly because the software is relatively straight forward which is helpful. Staff were positive overall to take on board the system, therefore made the process of embedding Invisible Systems easy”.
This pilot has also shown how Invisible Systems enables service providers to establish a baseline of energy usage that can be tracked over time, enabling intervention if energy usage changes unexpectedly.
This project was delivered in partnership between Eastern AHSN, Suffolk Primary Care (SPC) and Invisible Systems as part of our work in bringing the right people together to create the right conditions for collaboration.
If you want to learn more about this pilot or how Eastern AHSN can support with the evaluation of innovation in healthcare, contact Nick Pringle, Advisor at Eastern AHSN: [email protected].