More efficient urine sample testing on the cards

From left: Ms Sun Xueling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development, Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health, and Mr Ng Ser Song, the Central Narcotics Bureau's director, viewing the u
From left: Ms Sun Xueling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development, Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health, and Mr Ng Ser Song, the Central Narcotics Bureau's director, viewing the urine specimen handling platform at the Home Team Academy yesterday. The system aims to improve the accuracy, capacity, durability, work productivity and hygiene of urine testing.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Urine sample testing will eventually become much more efficient for drug supervisees and enforcement officers alike, thanks to the Next-Generation Reporting Centre (NGRC) showcased at the Central Narcotics Bureau's annual workplan seminar held at the Home Team Academy yesterday.

The collaboration between CNB and the Office of the Chief Science and Technology Officer is a first-of-its-kind solution that aims to streamline the urine testing workflow and significantly improve its accuracy, capacity, durability, work productivity and hygiene.

On the supervisees' end, the new reporting centre will have self-service kiosks allowing them to do routine tasks - such as scheduling appointments, submitting medical certificates and updating their personal particulars - independently.

Its appointment booking system (ABS) will also allow supervisees, such as drug offenders who require the routine checks, to schedule urine test appointments at the centre's self-service kiosk or remotely via computers and smartphones.

The ABS also serves to prevent peak hour crowds by allowing supervisees to book time slots, regulating their number at the centre at any one time, and provides a paperless queue management system that accommodates walk-ins, early as well as late arrival cases.

Much of the urine testing process has been automated to optimise resources and free up manpower for other important work, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health & Home Affairs Amrin Amin, the seminar's guest of honour.

Upon their queue number being called, supervisees first proceed to the Authenticate & Label Kiosk (ALK), which authenticates supervisees via smart cards and biometric data. Currently, they are visually verified by an officer.

The ALK simultaneously automates the printing and pasting of labels on urine specimen bottles and test tubes.

Supervisees then go to the Specimen Handling Platform, which eliminates manual handling of urine specimens by automating specimen transfer and capping of bottles. Here, the contents of the initial master urine bottle will be transferred to a test tube for CNB analysis. Two smaller bottles will be sent to the Health Sciences Authority .

Finally, bottles are packaged and sealed in the specimen sealing platform, which automates the e-signature of identification labels, tightening of caps, printing and labelling of bottles and heat shrink wrapping.

The automation reduces officers' contact with the urine bottles, reducing risk of a biohazard and cross-contamination.

The NGRC project, which took about 11/2 years to prototype, commenced in August 2016 after a review of the urine specimen procurement process and its trial phase will tentatively begin in the third quarter of this year. CNB hopes to operationalise it in all of its enforcement divisions from 2020.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2018, with the headline 'More efficient urine sample testing on the cards'. Print Edition | Subscribe