Spokane, Washington

Compact Cold Storage in a Pathology Lab

Spacesaver’s compact cold storage systems save space, save time, and improve organization in a pathology lab’s walk-in refrigerator.

Cold storage is expensive storage. Every cubic inch counts.

When a walk-in refrigerator is storing biological specimens for medical testing, every moment counts, too — because every vial represents a patient who is anxiously awaiting medical test results.

Pathology Associates Medical Laboratory’s National Reference Laboratory, located in Spokane, Wash., provides medical testing services for PAML’s nationwide network of partner hospitals. Although routine medical tests are conducted throughout that local network, samples that require more esoteric testing are sent to the lab in Spokane, which has the highly specialized equipment required to conduct molecular diagnostics, cytogenetic analysis, and other tests.

Doctor walking through an aisle of refrigerated samples on mobile system in pathology lab

The lab has grown rapidly over the past few years. A number of smaller refrigerators originally housed the samples, but the facility eventually began to run out of room. Several years ago PAML invested in a large walk-in refrigerator and stocked it with wire carts to hold test tubes and vials. But as the facility’s daily volume of specimens continued to grow, the system became increasingly difficult to use.

mechanical assist storage system holding samples in cold storage room
The Spacesaver system increased storage capacity by 130%.

Crowded Carts Design Challenge

“It wasn’t very efficient or effective,” said Tony Pereira, accessioning manager. “We would have to move carts around to get to the cart we needed, and we didn’t have much room. Only one person could be in there looking for samples at a time.”

Pereira’s staff frequently conducts sample retrievals, which are necessary when the provider requests additional testing or to verify initial results. Orders for additional testing require patient samples to be retrieved from cold storage. Timely retrievals are important for two main reasons: First, retrievals allow the patient to avoid return trips to their local hospital or clinic to give additional samples. Secondly, fast retrievals minimize the wait time before definitive results are delivered.

Layne Ainuu, the lab’s enterprise accessioning manager, agreed that the lab’s storage system needed an overhaul to improve customer service and accommodate growth. “We wanted to utilize the current footprint of our walk-in refrigerator but we needed to increase the holding volume,” he said. “I looked at our projected growth and thought, ‘We’re going to run out of room.’”

The facility’s technical lab had recently undergone an expansion, so adding another walk-in refrigerator wasn’t an option. The staff had to figure out a way to store more vials in the same amount of space, while still ensuring the delicate specimens’ integrity.

Basics of High-Density Mobile Shelving

Learn more about Spacesaver compact mobile systems used in this project.

Increasing Capacity & Saving Time

The nearby Spacesaver consultant worked with staff to develop detailed storage plans. Ainuu worked with Pereira and procurement staff to acquire funding and evaluate vendors. As they evaluated various solutions, they were looking for four main things:

  • Hard numbers on how much additional storage capacity could be gained with each vendor’s option
  • A system that could hold up to constant near-freezing temperatures without rusting or malfunctioning
  • A system that would maintain or even improve retrieval times
  • A well-organized, professional appearance
cluttered pathology lab with samples all over on assorted shelving before Spacesaver installed solutions
"The volume increase with Spacesaver was a huge decision-maker for us."

- Layne Ainuu, Enterprise Accessioning Manager

“The other vendors presented solutions that were only slight variations of what we already had,” Ainuu said. “The volume increase with Spacesaver was a huge decision-maker for us.”

The team at PAML decided that Spacesaver’s compact cold storage solution met all their goals. The project increased storage capacity by at least 130 percent, a fact that is apparent from a look at photos taken before and after the Spacesaver project was completed. PAML staff worked closely with their local Spacesaver consultant to achieve this result, measuring the sizes of test tubes and vials, repurposing the shelving they had already purchased, and configuring a system that neatly filled the allotted space.

compact mobile system in a pathology labs cold storage room
For larger projects, Spacesaver’s ActivRAC can help you save space, save time, improve organization, and ensure staff safety.

The lab achieved the following benefits:

Saves space.
Spacesaver’s compact cold storage system helped the facility boost its storage capacity by over 130 percent.

Saves time.
Staff can quickly store and retrieve samples. They no longer have to move carts to get what they need.

Improves morale.
The system’s tidy appearance and smooth operation means that staff can focus on their mission, rather than struggling with inconvenient storage.

"The fact that it’s on wheels is incredible. We can go from one section and roll it to get to another section very quickly. We can tell at a glance where things are."

- Anthony Pereira, Operations Manager

Healthcare Storage Guide

Understanding how storage impacts your daily functions. Our insights into what is needed most when it comes to storage, and partner with you to create a solution that works in tandem with your facility’s needs.

The system’s convenience, durability, and efficiency have also boosted staff morale. “Now multiple people can retrieve samples at the same time,” Pereira said. “We can fit a lot more samples in there now. And we actually have room to accommodate more samples as we grow in the future.”

Spacesaver’s nationwide network of local design consultants and service technicians are ready to help out with your project, no matter its size or scope. From free space assessments, to project design and coordination, to product installation and ongoing service long after the sale, our storage experts pride themselves on exemplary customer service.