Effort to do medical laboratory tests at point-of-care is not perfect, but the system did encourage 342 of the 573 drunks identified by the tests to take a ride home
In the world of point-of-care testing (POCT), this may be the most humorous attempt to perform medical laboratory testing in an unusual setting: the men’s toilet at a night club! As part of an anti-drunk driving campaign, a nightclub in Singapore has installed urine analyzers in urinals that automatically signal management when a patron is too drunk to drive.
Pathologists and clinical laboratory managers will find this initiative to not only be humorous, but instructive as to how innovative thinkers will apply diagnostic technologies in unorthodox ways. As used in Singapore, this program pairs the diagnostic testing device with an RFID chip and wireless technology to provide a real-time analysis and alert whenever the alcohol level of a customer participating in this program exceeds the legal limit for safe driving.
Urine Analysis Using iPhones and Mobile Applications
Of course, careful readers of Dark Daily will recall our e-briefing earlier this year about the iPhone app now available that can perform urine analysis.(Dark Daily, New iPhone App Allows Customers to Test Their Urine on the Go for as Many as 25 Different Diseases,” April 26, 2013.) So maybe it was only a matter of time before someone would develop a practical device like the urinal-based Pee Analyzer, which tests the alcohol level of bar patrons to prevent drunks from driving themselves home.
Pee Analyzer Warns Patrons When They’re Over the Legal Alcohol Limit
It’s a well-known fact that those most in need of having their keys taken away are the least likely to realize they’re drunk. The Pee Analyzer system was developed by the advertising firm DDB Group Singapore as part of an anti-drink/drive campaign for Singapore’s Zouk nightclub. The device lets patrons know when they are too drunk to drive and encourages them to get alternative transportation, noted an article published by Gizmag.com. Singapore sees 2,141 cases of drunk driving a year.
This video by DBB explains how the Pee Analyzer works. (Video copyright DDB Group Singapore)
“Anti-drink driving awareness advertisements have almost become blind spots,” contended a DDB Singapore spokesperson in the Gizmag.com story. “Our solution took anti-drunk-driving messaging to a new level. By identifying drivers, testing their urine for alcohol content with a custom-designed device in urinals, and discouraging them from driving drunk. All at a place they least expected. Bars.”
Urine Analyzer is Paired with RFID Technology
The design of the system is quite clever. It pairs RFID technology with a urine-testing device modified to fit at the bottom of a urinal. The urinal-based analyzer consists of a series of bespoke urine testing devices.
The RFID-equipped analyzer that is placed in the urinal: 1) detects; 2) reads; and 3) records information generated by the urine analyzer on the patron’s RFID tag. It also resets instantly for consecutive readings from multiple patrons who use that urinal.
In its report, Gizmag.com explained that, when patrons arrive at the Zouk nightclub they exchange their car keys for parking cards that contain RFID tags unique to them. Once the tags are activated, the RFID device—which is able to speak to the urine analyzer—identifies patrons each time they pee into the urinal. The urine analyzer records the customer’s blood-alcohol level on the patron’s tag.
If the patron’s urine contains an alcohol level above the legal limit, a message immediately flashes on the screen above the urinal, directly in front of the inebriated patron. This message encourages the individual to use the club’s drive home service or call cab rather than drive himself. But the system also does more.
Should the customer be too drunk to read the message or comprehend the information, a back-up system comes into play. When that patron leaves the club, an RFID reader positioned at the exit conveys information about the patron’s alcohol level to the valet. This allows the valet to suggest, for a second time, an alternative form of transportation if the patron is over the legal limit. The club offers a home shuttle service or will call a cab for the inebriated patron.
Shortcomings of the Pee Analyzer
The pee analyzer isn’t perfect, pointed out a report in the Huffington Post. The type of urine-alcohol screen performed by the urine analyzer is called the EtG test. That is short for ethyl glucuronide, which is a unique metabolite of alcohol that stays in urine for up to 80 hours—four times longer than alcohol.
The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has warned that EtG is so sensitive that a positive reading may reflect exposure to alcohol-based hand sanitizers or alcohol-containing foods or medicines, which also contain ethyl glucuronide. This news was reported in a story published by the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette.
The Gizmag.com story also noted that, obviously, the Pee Analyzer doesn’t help the female patrons who drive. Additionally, the system presumes that the driver peeing in the urinal has the parking card on him, so there could be a logistical gap.
But the results of Zouk’s efforts were significant. The anti-drunk-driving campaign saw 573 drivers warned in two weeks. Of these, 342 used the drive home service or called a cab.
Bars Increasingly Looking for Ways to Stop Patrons from Driving Drunk
While some bar patrons may not like drinking in a bar where they’re “pee-nalized,” this is a good example of a nightclub taking responsibility for their patrons’ over indulgence. Moreover, excessive drinking by bar patrons is a problem around the world. This is causing other clever attempts by bar owners to address this problem.
For example, another innovative attempt to reduce drunk driving by a nightclub was reported by Takepart.com. It published a story about how a popular nightclub in Belgium worked with engineers to create a breath-analyzer checkpoint at the gate to the club’s parking lot exit. Each driving customer exiting the parking must blow into the Breathalyzer. The gate only opens if the driver’s breath-alcohol level is under the legal alcohol limit.
Additionally, Gizmag.com noted that last year a number of drinking establishments in Michigan took a humorous approach to the problem of drunk driving. Their solution was to install talking urinal cakes that say: “Hey, listen up. That’s right, I’m talking to you. Had a few drinks? Or maybe a few too many. Then do yourself and everyone else a favor, call a sober friend or a cab. Oh, and don’t forget – wash your hands!”
Pathologists Understand the Problems of Accuracy with POC Testing
With more and more point-of-care testing devices coming to the market, consumers can expect to see these devices put to practical uses that impact their everyday health and well being. Whether these types of applications for point-of-care testing can usefully engage the services of pathologists or clinical laboratory professionals has yet to be seen.
But with our litigious society, it would not be a surprise if some clever bar-owner—to protect himself or herself from lawsuits or even criminal prosecution because a patron was allowed to leave the establishment too drunk to legally drive—figured out a way to have licensed medical laboratory professionals supervise some type of point-of-care alcohol testing every night at their establishments. That would certainly be an interesting swing-shift and night-shift workplace for any clinical laboratory professional,
– Patricia Kirk