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Labeling multi-specimen patient samples with color-coded labels

Oliver StocktonWritten by Oliver Stockton, Managing Director, CILS



Color-coded label sets or booklets are an ideal solution and can be the most efficient and economical way to identify multiple specimens taken from each patient during laboratory testing or clinical trials.

This is particularly the case when up to 4 or more specimens are taken from each patient when testing for the presence of, or during clinical trials for coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).


Clinical studies are taking place around the world in a race to discover the cause and effect of COVID-19 and to find a vaccine, including many of our own customers.

We have been asked by a number of laboratories to provide a simple label solution that allows them to easily identify multiple specimens collected from the same patients in order to analyse these for their clinical trials.

We recommend color-coded durable labels sets, where each specimen is assigned a particular color, with additional labels containing the patients' details and specimen numbers that can be applied to consent forms and paperwork.

Sample testing

To screen for the presence of COVID-19, specimens taken from patient’s include blood, faecal samples, nasopharyngeal swabs of nasal discharge or sputum from coughing.

During clinical studies, technicians need to ensure the right identification label is applied to the correct specimen once it has been taken, and then matched to the correct patient in their file or on the laboratory report.

Collecting 4 or more specimens from each patient simultaneously can become complex when factoring in the number of patients involved in COVID-19 testing or clinical trials.

Additional complexity arises if any of the specimens need to be outsourced for testing, such as blood aliquoting. These labels can be supplied separately for procedures to be undertaken at different sites, but will still tie in with the patient forms.

Label designs and resistances

As I mentioned before, label sets or booklets can be a simple solution to label more than one specimen for each patient in a clinical study.

Each color can represent a specific sample taken such as red for blood, etc.

Sets can comprise labels of different sizes, shapes and designs (including color coding), blank or printed with sample data ready to use. 

The labels don’t have to be uniform size or shape and are grouped in sets on sheets for laser printing, rolls for thermal transfer printing or ready-printed booklets making them ideal for clinical trials.

We have supplied millions of labels to laboratories like Zoetis, Oxford Nanopore, Elucigen, Illumina and Sanofi Pasteur, in sheets or in booklets with perforated tear-off sheets (sets). This is the most convenient method of distributing labels to test centres around the world for clinical trials, including those for influenza vaccines whenever the virus mutates every 18 months or so.

Any of the CILS label materials and adhesives can be manufactured into sets, ensuring your labels are able to withstand your environment and test protocols, such as ultra-low temperatures ranging from -196°C to +155°C, repeated handling, chemicals and solvents, etc.

Printing options

We can pre-print the with the name of the study or laboratory logo, and provide data templates ready for you to add variable patient information, or labels can be supplied completely blank. 

You can then print the variable data using your existing office laser printer or thermal transfer printer.

An alternative option is for us to provide fully-pre-printed sequentially coded labels with information directly from your patient database.

Label sets are ideal for grouped patient data or clinical trials, with consistent label quality for all vessels, cold storage, and transportation.

Labels printed from your PC and standard laser or thermal transfer printer are exceptionally durable. They are made to any size, shape, and design - matched perfectly to your requirements. With computer imprintable labels, you will no longer need to worry about smudged, illegible, or repetitive handwritten labels.

The labels can be supplied on a roll with a perforation between each set so you can easily separate them for each patient.

We have thousands of material and adhesive combinations to resist all laboratory processes.

Contact us

The CILS Label Technology Centre has extensive experience in producing durable, computer-printable laboratory label sets. 

If you think your problem could be solved with a label set or booklet, contact us for a free consultation.

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