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A dedicated medical refrigeration unit is the most important piece of equipment in any medical practice. We explain why and provide the information needed to find the best unit for your needs.
Medical refrigerators are essential pieces of equipment for any medical or healthcare practice. This includes hospitals, doctor's offices and pharmacies, but also dentists, private healthcare facilities and even veterinary practices. Without these specialized products, practitioners are not able to properly store pharmaceuticals, i.e. vaccines or medications, in the cold chain, which means they cannot be safely administered to patients. This has a negative impact on patient care and can also cost large sums of money if the medications are damaged or even stolen.
The DocCheck team provides the information you need to understand why vaccines should be stored in medical refrigerators, the different units available, and how you can choose the right one for your needs.
Medicines must be kept in a cold chain from the point of manufacture to the point of use. This includes transporting them from the production line to the doctor's office and then storing them before use. If the cold chain is broken at any time and the vaccines are outside the recommended temperature range of +2°C and +8°C
for an extended period of time, they may be damaged and unsafe to use. During transport, medications are usually stored as refrigerated solutions in specialized containers and transported in refrigerated vehicles. Once they arrive at a medical practice, they must be transferred to and stored in a medical refrigeration unit. This ensures that the cold chain remains intact and that medications and vaccines are in the best possible condition before being administered to patients.
It goes without saying that home refrigerators, whether stationary or mobile, are not sufficient for storing medicines and vaccines. They simply cannot properly maintain a constant and stable temperature range. They also lack the necessary alarms and safety features. Specialized medical refrigerators, on the other hand, have been designed specifically to store medications and have essential features such as:
These features ensure that vaccines stay in the cold chain during their and storage of medications that practitioners can react quickly, should the temperature go out of the required range.
While investing in a medical refrigerator is the best way to ensure that vaccines are stored properly and remain in the cold chain, it is also important that practitioners fully understand how to use them. How vaccines are stored in the refrigerator can mean the difference between safe storage and critical damage. Here are our top tips for ensuring that medications are stored properly. Make sure the refrigerator contains freezer protection plates. Store vaccines in their protective packaging - some vaccines are light sensitive and protective packaging allows them to be stored in the dark. It also makes it easier to identify vaccines when they are used. Make sure they are placed properly - keep the vaccines away from the back wall, as this can affect the accuracy of their temperature control. Leave an inch between each vaccine and don't overfill the refrigerator - maximum capacity should be 75%. Do not store anything else in the refrigerator. This may be an obvious point, but it bears repeating. The only items that should be stored in a medical refrigerator are vaccines and medications.
The main risk of not using a medical refrigerator to store medications and vaccines is that they will get out of the cold chain and be damaged or even destroyed. This can put patients at risk, but it can also result in unnecessary waste of money.
In addition, vaccines and medications that are not stored in a medical refrigerator are at a much higher risk of being stolen. Thirty-five percent of vaccines are discarded due to deterioration from improper storage conditions, such as overexposure to heat, cold, or light. Liquid vaccines can lose their effectiveness if exposed to temperatures below 0°C (32°F).
Practitioners have a wide range of medical refrigerators available, each designed to meet different needs and requirements. These range from small units that sit on top of counters to stand-alone units ideal for laboratory infrastructure.
Small size: In some medical offices, space is at a premium. In these cases, a small medical refrigeration unit is ideal. Designed to fit into small spaces, they can usually be placed on top of counters or desks. Simply plug the refrigerator into the power supply and it's ready to use.
Medium Size:A medium size medical refrigerator will fit larger medical offices with more vaccines and medications to store. These units are about the size of a dishwasher and - space permitting - can be installed directly under counters and tables or as a stand-alone unit. Sometimes an engineer may need to install a unit under the counter, as power and proper ventilation of the refrigerator must be considered.
Large:If you run a large medical practice or laboratory, you'll need a medical refrigerator to match your requirements. Large refrigeration units are freestanding and offer maximum storage space. Despite their larger size, large medical refrigerators maintain the same level of accuracy and temperature control as smaller refrigerators and, in most cases, can be installed without requiring an engineer to travel to your practice.
Ward:Although ward refrigerators are not designed to store vaccines and medications, these refrigerated systems play an essential role in the daily operation of a hospital or clinic. They are designed to store food for patients with special dietary needs and/or busy staff. They come in a variety of sizes, so no matter the size of the hospital or clinic, there is a duty refrigerator to meet every need.
Laboratories may have slightly different requirements than other medical offices, with the need to refrigerate and freeze vaccines, medications and samples. Laboratory refrigerators and freezers come in a variety of sizes and offer the same temperature controls and functionality as other medical equipment.
A cold chain supply system requires temperature-controlled storage facilities and distribution channels to adequately protect vaccines, blood transfusions and other biological materials. The use of medical grade refrigerators paves the way for a reliable cold chain. Billions of dollars are lost each year in the medical industry due to cold chain issues. Thirty-five percent of vaccines are discarded due to spoilage from improper storage conditions, such as overexposure to heat, cold or light. Liquid vaccines can lose their effectiveness if exposed to temperatures below 0°C (32°F). Inadvertent administration of compromised vaccines puts patients at risk. A reduction in vaccine potency may require the patient to be re-vaccinated. Ineffective vials can also cause the general public to distrust vaccines, leading them to refuse vaccination and risk exposure to preventable diseases.
Medical-grade refrigerators are often equipped with temperature control systems that allow for more efficient cold chain management of medications. This feature allows cold chain personnel to regulate a more consistent range compared to domestic units. The unit's doors are also more tightly sealed in medical grade units, preventing temperature inconsistencies. At the same time, the compression installed in the unit helps maintain and achieve the required storage temperature.
Temperature excursions often occur as a result of inadequate storage conditions and require immediate action. Biological materials and vaccines can lose their effectiveness when the temperature is outside the required range. Most medical grade refrigerators are equipped with temperature monitoring devices for accurate temperature tracking. This feature allows staff to determine the internal temperature of the unit without opening the door. Units must have a current and valid NIST-traceable calibration test certificate to ensure the reliability of temperature monitoring devices. They are often equipped with audible alarms that alert staff to temperature deviations or when the refrigerator door is ajar.
Units with digital data loggers keep accurate temperature records where staff can see how long the unit has been out of the required temperature range. In contrast, single thermometers in units only reflect the hottest and coldest temperatures that have been reached. Digital data loggers record information on all temperatures recorded at predefined levels. It uses buffered temperature sensors to determine the actual temperature of the vaccine.
Appliances often have glass shelves that prevent air from flowing into the unit. These shelves are easier to clean, but they prevent the units from maintaining an even internal temperature. These units are not suitable for vaccines and biological materials that must be maintained at specific temperatures at all times. Their use can compromise the integrity of vaccines and biological materials.
Medical grade units have superior airflow through the use of wire shelves with perforated ventilation holes for the unit's internal shelving system. They also feature powerful forced ventilation systems with air cooling vents. It is essential that items have enough space inside the units. An overfilled refrigerator impairs proper air circulation. Units should be at least 30% full, with no product overflow. The units should also have good outside air circulation. They should always be placed in well-ventilated rooms with adequate space between the floor, walls and ceilings.
The front of home refrigerators looks inviting to employees and encourages the storage of personal items. They are opened more frequently throughout the day, leading to possible temperature fluctuations. These units lack excellent temperature recovery systems, which can compromise vaccines and biologicals if they are chosen for pharmaceutical storage. Because of the intimidating appearance of medical refrigerators, staff are discouraged from using these units to store personal items.
Biologics and vaccines are high-value commodities that can be subject to theft and unwanted handling. Medical-grade refrigerators may be equipped with digital locks that allow access only to authorized staff members. Other units have a specific flange built into the door for electronic locks. These locks can be controlled by automated dispensing cabinets or a pharmacy information system. There are also stickers inside to label the equipment to avoid confusion between items.
Power outages can compromise a massive amount of temperature-sensitive biologics and vaccines if the refrigeration units storing these vaccines do not have the necessary backup power. Medical grade units often have battery backups (UPS) that can be used in place of generators. These back-up batteries are a great help in avoiding temperature fluctuations in the event of a power failure. Doors should be tightly closed during power outages to maintain internal temperature. It would also be best to have a second battery backup system if the initial option does not work.
Medical-grade units often have a larger initial investment than household units; however, the expense incurred due to product loss from faulty refrigerator storage can be thousands of dollars. The use of household or dormitory units presents a significant financial risk that can be avoided with the initial acquisition of appropriate units. Better quality medical refrigerators can ensure a long-term investment due to the safe and orderly storage of sensitive vaccines and medications.
Practices and practitioners are spoiled for choice when it comes to medical refrigerators, and it can be difficult to decide which one is right. Here are the key factors you should consider.
Use:Determine what the refrigerator will be used for. Depending on your industry, you will use the refrigerator to store different items. A laboratory, for example, may store blood, while a pharmacy may store vaccines.
Size:Consider the amount of space you have available to install your refrigerator, as this will determine the size of the unit you need to choose. Consider whether it will be placed under a counter or on top, or whether it will be free-standing. Glass door/full door - most medical refrigerators come with either a glass door or a full door. The advantage of the former is that you can see what's inside without opening the door, while the latter offers additional security. In addition, a larger refrigerator will offer you more storage capacity, allowing you to keep more pharmaceuticals.
Cost:The refrigerator you finally choose can be determined by the budget you have to spend or the refrigeration method used such as thermoelectric or other.
Durability:A medical refrigerator is a significant investment, so you want to be sure that it will stand the test of time and that it comes with a warranty. It's also worth considering paying for annual maintenance and service to ensure it continues to perform as it should.
Energy consumption:A final factor to consider is the energy consumption of the medical refrigerators you are considering. Most high-tech products have been designed to minimize power consumption without sacrificing performance.
Once you have purchased a medical refrigerator, it is important to maintain it properly. These appliances are expensive, and without the proper cleaning and maintenance programs, they can break down, sometimes irreparably. Here are some of our top tips for keeping your refrigerator in good working order.
The easiest part to clean is the outside of the refrigerator, and it should be done regularly. If you use the refrigerator several times a day, the exterior should be wiped down at the end of the workday. The door handle is the most important part of the exterior to clean, as it is the one that is touched most often. It is sufficient to wipe it with a cloth and a disinfectant. As for the rest of the exterior, a quick wipe down with disinfectant from time to time should be enough to keep it clean. Always clean up spills on and around the refrigerator as soon as they occur.
If you don't clean the coils on the back of the unit, the refrigerator may use more energy to stay cold. Because the coils work harder, they may not last as long and you may have to repair them sooner than expected.
To clean the coils, you must follow the manufacturer's instructions, as the process differs, depending on the model of refrigerator. Be careful not to damage them during the cleaning process, as they are expensive to repair or replace. As a rule, unplug the refrigerator, take it out and use a brush or soft cloth (or even a vacuum cleaner) to clean the coils, then turn the refrigerator back on and put it back in.
The interior should also be cleaned regularly, but the frequency of cleaning depends on how often you use it and the type of medications you keep inside. Once a month is usually sufficient. To clean the inside, unplug the refrigerator and transfer the medications to another refrigerator if you have one. Then wash the surfaces and shelves with hot soapy water (remove them if you can). Avoid using chemical cleaning products and check the manufacturer's instructions. Dry with a soft cloth, plug the refrigerator back in and wait until the correct temperature is reached before replacing the vaccines. You may need to switch your refrigerator to automatic defrost before cleaning the interior. Some refrigerators defrost on their own, but if not, you'll need to defrost and clean them to prevent ice buildup in your medical cooler.
Try to stick to a strict cleaning schedule to ensure that your refrigerator remains hygienic in the long run according to hygiene standards. This can include daily cleaning of the exterior and weekly or monthly cleaning of other areas, depending on the frequency of use. We also recommend that you have your refrigerator serviced once a year by a qualified engineer, to ensure that all parts are working properly and that those that are about to reach the end of their life are replaced before they break.
Find all the information about medical refrigerators on the DocCheck store. Order your new medical product and have it delivered in just a few clicks to the address of your choice.
Are you also looking for medical practice furniture to store medicines that do not require refrigeration? In that case, we invite you to visit the Cabinets category.