Storing medications and vaccines properly is essential in labs and medical facilities in order to ensure the viability and safety of these products. Not storing medications at the proper temperatures could not only cost money if products are wasted, but it could also put patients at risk if they are given a medication or vaccine that has not been stored properly.
However, medical fridges can be extremely costly, which is why it is not uncommon for medical facilities to try to save money by purchasing standard refrigerators and freezers. This can be particularly tempting during the COVID-19 pandemic, as medical facilities are having to quickly expand their refrigeration capacities as demand for medications and vaccines increases.
Unfortunately, trying to save money by purchasing a standard refrigerator can prove to be more costly in the long-run. While medical refrigerators cost more upfront, residential units do not come with the features necessary to ensure the proper storage of sensitive medications and vaccines, which could have disastrous consequences. If your medical facility is looking to invest in a new refrigerator, and you are considering buying a domestic model, here is a look at just a few of the ways purchasing a medical refrigerator could actually save you money.
Superior Temperature Control
The most important reason medical facilities need to invest in a medical refrigerator to ensure proper temperature control. The fact is that residential refrigerators and freezers are not designed to maintain highly accurate temperatures, and the temperatures within these units can fluctuate greatly throughout the day. This can be devastating for medical facilities, as most vaccines must be kept at a stable temperature in order to ensure their safety and effectiveness. In fact, vaccines must be stored within a very tight temperature window that may only be able to deviate by a few degrees without risking their viability.
Without the proper refrigeration systems, this can lead to excessive product losses, as vaccines and medications may need to be discarded in the event of a cold-chain failure. Such losses can be substantial, as the CDC estimates that healthcare facilities lose $20 million annually due to losses associated with improper refrigeration. Furthermore, refrigeration issues can lead to costly lawsuits if patient safety is compromised.
Fortunately, medical refrigerators have safeguards to ensure medications and vaccines are stored at a safe temperature. These units seal better than their domestic counterparts, helping them to maintain a steady temperature. They are also designed to maintain a tighter, more consistent temperature range than household units. This can help to ensure the viability of your products over a longer period of time, saving you money.
Medical refrigerators can also help maintain the cold-chain, and save you money, by providing enhanced monitoring systems not available on residential units. In order to ensure that your medications and vaccines are kept at a safe temperature and are still viable, it is critical that you keep a thorough log of temperature readings within your fridge. With a residential fridge, this would require opening up the refrigerator and checking a thermometer inside. Not only can this monitoring method be inaccurate, but each time you open the door reduces the stability of the temperature inside your refrigerator.
Fortunately, modern medical refrigerators provide features that can help you to accurately monitor and log the temperature in your unit. Most pharmaceutical-grade appliances have an external Temperature Monitoring Device (TMD), allowing you to view precise internal temperature readings without having to open the door. More sophisticated units will even have a digital data logger (DDL) that will store temperature information, allowing you to see detailed information about the temperature inside the unit over time, including how long the temperature was outside recommended ranges if a problem occurs. This allows you to ensure products are kept are the proper temperature, and it allows you to easily single out products that may no longer be viable.
One of the most beneficial features you will miss out on if you purchase a residential refrigerator or freezer for the medical facility is an alarm. A good medical fridge will come with an alarm function that will notify users if the internal temperature deviates outside of preset parameters. This can be crucial in providing an early warning should internal temperatures vary, allowing you to transfer vaccines and medications while they are still viable.
Whether a fridge door was accidentally left open, or the unit is malfunctioning, an alarm can help to save you time and money by warning you if there is a deviation in temperature within your refrigerator. The consequences of not having a medical refrigerator with a good alarm system was most recently highlighted when multiple medical facilities had freezers fail that were storing critical units of the COVID-19 vaccine. These facilities had to rush to use the vaccines before they went bad, as they had started to thaw before the failure was discovered. Proper monitoring and alarm systems could have prevented this situation, making high-quality medical refrigerators and freezers critical during the pandemic.
While we would like to have faith in people, precious medications and vaccines are extremely valuable and are often a tempting target for thieves. A major shortcoming of using a residential refrigerator in a medical facility is that these units cannot be properly secured. Should one of these units be broken into and raided by thieves, you could suffer a serious financial loss. Investing in a medical refrigerator is then critical, as a quality unit will have a lock to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing its contents.
Protect Products From Power Failure
Even in areas with reliable, redundant power systems, power outages can be an all too real possibility during inclement weather. Should the power supply to your facility's refrigerators fail, this can damage your vaccine supply, potentially wasting hundreds or thousands of doses. While many large medical facilities have backup generators, there is no guarantee that these will kick on right away. Additionally, smaller facilities often don't have the resources for backup generators. This is where investing in a quality medical refrigerator can end up saving you a great deal of money in the long-run, as many medical refrigerators have backup batteries that can kick in and protect your vaccine supply in the event of a power failure.
While purchasing a medical refrigerator represents a much larger investment upfront compared to purchasing a residential unit for your medical facility, spending the extra money now can save you greatly in the long-run. Contact us to learn more about medical refrigerators and the reasons you should not purchase a residential model for your medical facility.