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Choosing the Right Modular Battery System

December 12, 2017
Author: Definitive Technology Group

The average hospital in the United States uses approximately 70 mobile computer workstations to document patient interactions at the bedside. Some hospitals have adopted modular battery systems that help to maximize uptime for these workstations on wheels. The reality for the ones that don't use modular battery systems is 30-50% downtime for each workstation due to battery recharge and the need for constant monitoring.

One of the fundamental decisions when designing your workstation is choosing the right modular battery system that keeps your electronic devices connected when it matters most. In this guide, we'll walk you through some of the most important decisions that you'll face when upgrading to modular battery systems at your healthcare facility.

Understand the Risks and Costs of Unplanned Downtime

Mission-critical equipment cannot experience downtime without disrupting workflow and productivity. Taking that a step further, some equipment in a healthcare setting cannot experience downtime without seriously impacting patient safety. In a worst-case scenario, a battery-powered mobile workstation goes offline while the EHR is needed to make decisions on how to treat a critically ill patient. This scenario quickly becomes a patient safety issue.

Even when patient safety is not compromised, unplanned downtime has a negative effect on caregiver workflow, productivity, employee satisfaction and speed of payments or reimbursements. Imagine that the tool that you rely on most to perform your job fails because of dead batteries. How frustrated do you become?

How Much Battery Capacity Do You Need?

If you're not a battery engineer, it can be extremely confusing to determine the amount of capacity that is required to get the job done at your facility.

Different battery systems have different capacity (Watt-Hours). The electronic devices that you're powering, whether it's a computer mounted to a mobile workstation, a fetal monitor, ultrasound machine or other portable diagnostic and monitoring devices consume power (Watts). For example, a mobile workstation that has a laptop, monitor, printer, and scanner can consume 40-Watts per hour. If your battery has 250 Watt-Hours of capacity, you will get approximately 6-hours of runtime before requiring a battery swap or recharge.

Check the user manuals for your critical devices, or contact manufacturers to determine their power consumption and ensure that your modular battery can adequately provide enough runtime to meet your needs.

Focus on Features that Improve System Availability

The core purpose of deploying modular battery systems at your healthcare facility is to promote the constant availability of critical electronic devices, such as mobile workstations or diagnostic systems. Choosing battery products and configurations that maximize up-time without overspending or underperforming is the ultimate goal.

Hot-swappable Batteries - Hot-swapping is an important feature for battery systems that power critical devices. Hot swapping means that you can change the battery that's being used to power a device without turning it off. If a nurse sees that a battery needs to be recharged, they simply swap it with a fresh one and dock the depleted battery at the charging station - no time is wasted by saving their work, powering down the computer, and restarting it.

Expandable Capacity - Another way of maximizing uptime is to configure your modular battery system with additional batteries for increased capacity. Suppose you are using a modular battery system to power a computer that consumes 40W of power. If your modular battery system has the ability to add multiple batteries, the capacity, and runtime increase. For example, let's assume that your computer consumes 40W/hr of power and you have a 240Wh battery mounted to the system, you would get approximately 6hrs of runtime. However, if the modular system has the ability to add a second or third battery, you could double runtime and get 12-18+ hrs of uptime.

Make Safety a Priority When Choosing a Modular Battery System

The FDA has documented many instances of catastrophic battery failures in the hospital setting, including battery fires which are not only immensely dangerous, they critically disrupt workflow, invariably result in damage to expensive equipment and create bad press for the facility. You can view incident reports by manufacturer here if you're more interested in the results of these significant adverse events, just type in the manufacturer's name and select the date range.

Here are some safety tips for purchasing modular battery systems:

Choose a Fan-less Design - A cooling fan for a battery seems like a very logical safety feature. You don't want the battery system to overheat and either explode or catch fire, and a cooling fan does an excellent job of cooling the circuitry. The problem with batteries that require a cooling fan is fundamental - fans require power to operate which reduces the amount of battery capacity available to power your equipment, they collect dust and require preventative maintenance otherwise they can fail and stop cooling the battery system components. If nobody notices that a cooling fan has malfunctioned, it's just a matter of time before a critical failure occurs. -Choose a fanless battery system.

Choose a Battery with Safe Chemistry - There are several means of configuring batteries to deliver power on an ongoing basis, but battery chemistry is the inherent factor that contributes to safety. Leading modular battery manufacturers use Lithium-Iron Phosphate chemistry, sometimes called LiFE, which is known to be safer than other options. LiFE batteries produce less heat than their counterparts that use lithium metal oxide, especially those that contain cobalt, making them safer while both charging and discharging. Additionally, a high-quality Lithium Iron-Phosphate battery typically provides 5X the overall life of a standard Li-Ion battery thereby improving ROI and reducing cost.


Choosing the right modular battery system comes down to understanding your healthcare facility's needs and matching them with a modular battery system that does the job. To ensure maximum uptime, it's important to choose a system with hot-swapping capabilities and power redundancy. Never sacrifice safety for the promise of performance - choose a modular battery system with safe chemistry and a design that minimizes heat production to avoid fires and other adverse events.

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