Sort to Light System for Sorting Non-Track Specimens

Approximately 82-85% of ARUP’s test volume is transported and sorted on the MagneMover® LITE automated transport system. These specimens are all tubes. The 15-18% of ARUP’s daily volume that does not go on the automated system consists of specimen containers that are not tubes and cannot fit into the transport system’s pucks (e.g., urine cups, fecal containers, bagged infectious specimens, tissue samples, swabs, etc.), as well as tubes that must be maintained critical frozen, such as for some molecular tests. All of these non-track specimens must be manually sorted and manually delivered to the correct laboratory section.

ARUP has invented an automated system called Sort-To-Light (S2L) for sorting these non-track specimens according to their required temperature – frozen, refrigerated, or room temperature (ambient) – and according to their destination lab section. There are 160 total sort groups, 60 frozen, 60 refrigerated and 40 ambient groups. Each sort group consists of a bin which is behind a flipper door for the refrigerator or freezer to maintain temperature; bins for ambient specimens do not have flipper doors in front of them. All of the bin spaces are outlined at the front by LED arrays that can be illuminated in up to 10 different colors, each matching the color assigned to a technician (see photo at right).

The technicians working in this area access the S2L system using their ID badge. They select one of 9 color-coded handheld barcode readers (see photo at right). After they read the barcode on their ID, the reader is assigned to them by that color. The technicians proceed to sort the non-track specimens simply by scanning the barcode on the specimen, which causes one of the lighted arrays to illuminate in the color that matches their barcode reader. When they place the specimen in that bin, the light is turned off. On the other hand, if the technician accidentally places the tube in an incorrect bin, that array is illuminated in white which is not a color used for any of the scanners. When the technicians complete their sorting sessions, they return the scanner to the base unit and read the barcode on the unit to close the session.

Technicians retrieving specimens for their own lab section also access the S2L system by reading the barcode on their ID badge with a scanner, which assigns that scanner to them. Near the bin of specimens they plan to retrieve, they first scan a barcode to indicate checkout mode and then scan the barcode for the actual sort group. The array surrounding that sort group illuminates to match the color of their scanner. They remove the bin of specimens and transfer them to a separate container for transport to their lab section. When the technician is finished checking out the specimens for their section they return the scanner to the base unit and read the barcode on the unit to close the session.

A narrated video demonstrating the Sort-to-Light area can be viewed by clicking here.

Each S2L event, whether to sort specimens or to check out specimens, is tracked with a date and time, location and user identification. Thus, just as with specimens transported by ARUP’s Automated Transport and Sorting System, the Sort-to-Light system provides complete tracking of all specimens from Specimen Processing to the lab sections. Along with all of ARUP’s other automation the Sort-to-Light system has been an important factor in lowering ARUP’s lost specimen incidence to Six-Sigma quality levels.