Control-panel upgrade improves pneumatic transport system

February 17, 2011

Swisslog, a leader in pneumatic tube manufacturing, has launched a new touch-screen control-panel design.

Swisslog, a leader in pneumatic tube manufacturing, has launched a new touch-screen control-panel design. According to company representatives, the Nexus control panel is already getting rave reviews for being easier to read, use, and customize programs. John Kennedy, Swisslog product manager, said that today’s version of the century-old delivery system still continues to serve an important need in operation of medical facilities - and pneumatic tubes are fast and efficient.

“Transport of small items such as medications, IV bags, documents, and laboratory samples occurs at a rate of 25 feet per second, which is faster than any human can deliver them,” Kennedy said.

Swisslog representative Charles Warren said that development of the Nexus Control Panel came after extensive interviews with nurses, pharmacists, and other key medical staff. “The users said the old panels had small print, that reading the panel operations from across the room was difficult, and the controls required complicated navigation to select the needed operations,” Warren said.

Kennedy said, “We chose the automated teller machine (ATM) configuration for our new controls because everyone is familiar with these user-friendly, touch-screen interfaces. With large, easy-to-read buttons, staff can quickly identify the sending and receiving functions from across the room, or preprogram the controls for their specific needs to save valuable time.

“For example,” Kennedy continued, “if a nursing station or emergency room requests a controlled substance from the pharmacy, it’s important the correct recipient takes that delivery in a timely manner. We now have an easily programmable menu that allows for pass-code entry or an ID badge to protect security.”

The original Swisslog pneumatic tube with mechanical controls was introduced in 1917, primarily for paperwork transport in a business setting. Kennedy said in the 1950s and 1960s, Swisslog was the first to introduce pneumatic tubes into hospitals for transport. Although more sophisticated, the systems still operate on the same original principles: a blower-driven, pressurized air system that will push or pull the pneumatic tube from one destination to another.

Surgeons can deliver specimen samples to pathology for analysis, and physicians or nurses can quickly receive drugs and other supplies during procedures. Pharmacists, one of the primary user groups, can compound medicines or IV solutions and get them to their destinations quickly and securely. Emergency rooms can send or receive paperwork or lab samples in time-critical situations.

The Swisslog pneumatic system transports tubes between floors and even buildings, and each tube supports up to 12 pounds of materials, supplies, or documentation. Kennedy said the pneumatic systems are operating in more than 2,000 hospitals around the world, and the Nexus control panel installations are currently underway.