With speeds of 22 feet per second—approximately 15 miles an hour—the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s (HUP) pneumatic tube system delivers nearly 4,000 specimens, blood and blood products, and other urgently needed supplies and medications to stations throughout the HUP campus each day. Thanks to recent upgrades, the system’s efficiency has not only improved, but this quality service will continue at Pavilion when it opens in the fall.
HUP’s “super highway” is a complex system: miles of pipes divided into multiple zones leading to specific destinations all over HUP’s physically connected buildings. Hundreds of “carriers” (containers of specimens or supplies) can be moving through the tubes at any given time and the system’s real-time monitoring constantly tracks them in an effort to keep “traffic jams” and other issues to a minimum so each carrier can arrive at its destination station in the fastest time possible. “Most transactions are under 5 minutes from point A to B,” says Gary Maccorkle, supervisor of Maintenance Operations.
HUP now has 130 stations, up from 105 a few years back. Most were added to those areas that receive the greatest influx, i.e., labs (almost half go to Central Receiving), blood banks, and pharmacies. These extra stations “are like adding another lane of highway, internally,” he says. The larger the infrastructure, the more likely the computer can find a fast, open route to get to a destination. For example, rather than waiting for traffic to die down in one zone, the carrier will be automatically rerouted to another zone that’s open and faster.
HUP’s upgrades are also helping to reduce any downtime. Problem alerts are sent to Maintenance staff iPhones, 24 hours a day. “This notification system lets us know about a problem and fix it before someone else even realizes it,” says Maccorkle.
This story is by Sally Sapega. Read more at Penn Medicine News.