Department of Laboratory Medicine

Reference Laboratory Services

From the Autumn 2007, Profiles in Laboratory Medicine, the newsletter of the University of Washington Department of Laboratory Medicine

Laboratory Medicine Courier Service
By Tucker Sparkman

The immediate service area for Laboratory Medicine’s outreach program stretches the entire length of Puget Sound, a distance of 150 miles, from Bellingham in the north to Olympia in the south. Within this area, our clients receive a daily courier visit in order to deliver hard copy reports and supplies, and to pick up specimens for delivery to the Medical Center in Seattle.

The couriers providing this service are Laboratory Medicine employees. They receive training in biohazard safety, specimen transport and viability, and in the relevant HIPAA regulations (patient confidentiality and data security). There are seven daily courier routes, each with its own driver, plus two back-up couriers.

For our clients, the couriers become the human face of the Department, the only Laboratory Medicine employees that make a physical appearance on a daily basis in the labs, clinics and doctors’ offices that we serve. In the course of one year, these couriers collectively will log over 240,000 miles of driving. Although they travel thousands of miles and spend hundreds of hours behind the wheel, our couriers have an excellent safety record. Their safety is encouraged and maintained with annual driving review programs. These programs can take the form of interactive computer training, or on-the-road driving instruction from a national professional driver training agency. Without the daily efforts of our couriers, our outreach and reference lab services would not be possible.

A recent photo of our couriers.
A recent photo of our couriers.

In addition to our own Laboratory Medicine couriers, we have begun using the services of a local commercial courier service, called Couriers Inc. This company specializes exclusively in the transport of medical specimens, for which their drivers are specifically trained. Their drivers also receive training in HIPAA, Confidentiality and Compliance regulations. The availability of Couriers Inc enables us to continue providing service during emergency weather and staffing events, and at points in the day when our own couriers are geographically unavailable.

Also worth mentioning is the University of Washington’s award winning Motor Pool, from whom Lab Medicine leases our courier vehicles. The UW Motor Pool was awarded the 5 Star rating (the highest) from King County’s Hazardous Waste Management Program for their environmentally conscientious policies and procedures. They recycle and re-use common automotive products whenever possible, and have begun to employ electric vehicles. Two of Lab Medicine’s Motor Pool vehicles are Priuses, the gas-electric hybrid cars made by Toyota. The Motor Pool provides us with clean, low-mileage vehicles, and the Motor Pool staff insures that those vehicles are well-maintained and mechanically sound.

Please contact us (206) 598-6066, if you have questions or comments concerning any aspect of our courier service. Our goal is always to serve you and your patients with laboratory performance of the highest quality.

Last updated: 10/08/2007