The Freezerworks Hierarchy



This video will walk you through the hierarchy of Freezerworks. Learn how you can use Transactions, Aliquots, Samples, Patients, Visits, and Studies to better manage your data.


Introduction – 00:00

Hey guys, welcome to the Freezerworks 2019 Learning Series, your visual guide to our sample management software. As a matter of fact, I want to discuss just that, sample management. Understanding how Freezerworks manages data about your various specimens in a hierarchy before configuring fields or entry forms will ensure that your previous system, which may be a challenging number of unsearchable spreadsheets, is brought to order upon implementation of our software. We'll start with the basics, and then I'll briefly touch on how the Summit and Pinnacle editions add more layers to our hierarchy.

Samples vs. Aliquots – 00:49

So, if you've been using Freezerworks for a bit or looked into the software at all, you've probably stumbled across the word ‘aliquot' more than a few times. The word itself means ‘portion of a sample,' and, in the many different systems we serve, this portion can take on many different forms:

  • A vial of serum or plasma
  • Slides of saliva
  • DNA extraction tubes
  • Wells in a plate
  • Paraffin blocks
  • Tissue cassettes

The list goes on and on, but in Freezerworks, an aliquot is always the thing that holds a position in the Freezer.

But the Aliquot is also a child record, and every child has a parent, which is where the samples come in. Even if you're storing one Aliquot, the Samples act as “umbrellas” for the many different Aliquots that can be made from them. Say you receive a blood or tissue specimen – in Freezerworks, you start by creating a sample: you enter information about where the specimen came from, when it was collected, who it was collected by, when it expires, and a unique ID, for example, all as a single sample record. Typically, all this information, or metadata, won't change as you work with the specimen. You may then break the specimen down into its base components – serum, plasma, cells, etc. – or, in the case of tissue, cut it into smaller pieces for different tests and/or storage. Whatever the case is, these are all aliquots in Freezerworks, and while they each have their own data, unique identifier, and freezer position, they all still came from that single blood or tissue sample, the metadata of which still applies (what is true about the sample, is true about all its children Aliquots). If you then create sub-aliquots from those aliquots, like in the case of DNA extraction, they too become children of the sample while maintaining a lineage link to the Parent Aliquots they're spun from. A Sample can exist on its own, it can have a single Aliquot in order to track freezer position, or have many different Aliquots in many different Freezers, but an Aliquot can only be part of one Sample.

Transactions – 02:50

To create the bottom layer of our family tree, we add Transactions, which are essentially actions performed on an Aliquot that you want to track. These can be checkouts, check-ins, shipments, moves, thaws, etc. – anything you desire. Transactions are the grandchildren, they come from the Aliquots, but they are still linked to the original sample and can be found using that Sample's data and ID. In this way, Transactions do not belong to more than one Aliquot, just as Aliquots do not belong to more than one Sample.

Related Data in Action – 03:20

You can see how these record tables relate to each other quite easily on the inventory list view. I make a search for existing Samples, I subset the ones I'm interested in, and then I click the Aliquots tab to see every Aliquot that comes from the samples I just subsetted. I can then highlight the Aliquots I'm interested in, subset again, and click the Transactions tab to see exactly what has been done to each of these Aliquots. Returning to the Samples tab then shows me the exact samples that the subsetted Aliquots and Transactions come from and not one more. When you open a Sample record, you have access to both the Aliquots and Transactions that are related to the Sample. The Aliquots, or portions of the Sample, are displayed here in the bottom, while the Transactions can be found on the Transactions tab. The tab in the Sample record shows all the Transactions related to the Sample – that means the transactions for every Aliquot that comes from the Sample. However, if I open a single aliquot, I will only see the transactions that are related to that Aliquot.

Summit and Patients – 04:28

Now, if you are using the Summit Edition, an extra top layer is added to our relational hierarchy – the Patients (or Participants). Think of this layer as the source or origin of Samples in your database – metadata for the metadata. It's possible that you have an entirely different name for the Patients level in your organization; if so, use the System Properties option Patient Table Alias to name it whatever you'd like. Anyway, just like Aliquots are children to Samples, so are Samples children to Patients. You may already have data kept at the Sample level that is essentially Patient information. Think of fields like Blood Type, Gender, Birth Date, preexisting conditions, etc. – anything that you can store about the origin of possibly numerous Samples. When you receive a Sample from a Patient, any related Aliquots and Transactions have that Patient information too, as the records assume the roles of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, respectfully. Again, Patients can have multiple Samples, Aliquots, and Transactions, but each of those records can only come from a single Patient. The Patient table is also an optional layer in the hierarchy, as Samples can exist without being associated with a Patient, but Aliquots and Transactions must be related to a Sample.

Pinnacle and Studies – 05:48

Finally, if you are using Pinnacle for Study Management purposes, two more layers are added to the hierarchy. The Study level is added to the top, where multiple Patients can be enrolled, and the Visits table is added in between Patients and Samples to assist with Visit modeling, kit creation, and data collection. So, Studies can have many Patients, which Visits are then scheduled for; at the Visits, Samples (and the Aliquots that are made from them) are collected and associated with the Patient, and thus the Study. It is not strictly a tree, however, as Patients can be enrolled in multiple studies. The top layers, therefore, establish a many-to-many relationship, the only one of its kind in the Freezerworks hierarchy. For help implementing Study Management, see our 7 part video series

Conclusion – 06:35

And that does it for today's video on the Freezerworks Hierarchy. Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of how the different record tables relate and interact with each other, what samples and aliquots in Freezerworks represent, and how Patients and Studies fit into it all. We want to help you configure your system, so please, if you have any more questions, don't hesitate to contact your Support rep. Doing it right the first time is always easier than fixing things down the road. Anyway, thanks as always for watching, and see you next time!