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Author: Definitive Technology Group
This week, we're bringing you a list of the top ten things to consider when looking for medical cart batteries. Since the EHR mandate was written into law, over 95% of hospitals have achieved compliance, showing meaningful use of electronic medical records throughout their activities. Mobile computer carts are a crucial part of that meaningful use, enabling nurses and physicians to access EHRs at the bedside and immediately record patient information, minimizing errors and increasing their task efficiency at work.
When mobile computers are low on battery, however, they can go out of service. This creates interruptions to caregiver workflow and delays that can impact organizational efficiency and productivity, and in some cases, patient safety. Medical cart batteries address this by helping to maximize up-time for both mobile computers and other portable diagnostic and monitoring devices. Our top ten list highlights the most important points to consider when investing in medical cart batteries for your healthcare facility.
Batteries come in all shapes and sizes, but in the internal components that your staff will never see, the battery chemistry is the most important aspect of the technology. Some medical carts still use Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) batteries to power computer devices but SLA is not a good choice, they are heavy and require frequent replacement. Most hospitals have migrated to Lithium-Ion batteries but do not understand the differences in specific chemistries under the Lithium-Ion umbrella. For example, a Lithium-Cobalt battery is a type of Lithium-Ion battery but is less safe and provides a shorter life than a Lithium Iron Phosphate battery chemistry. Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries work very well for hospitals - they're safe, provide long life, high-capacity, power output, and come in at a good price point.
When you can't afford Medical Cart downtime to change the battery, hot swapping capabilities are a must. Hot swapping means that you can swap out a depleting battery for a fresh one without turning off the computer devices. The battery pack should provide up to three minutes of bridge power for you to make the swap. Make sure your staff understands bridge power and check specifications to determine just how much time you have to make sure your computer doesn't shut down while you walk back from the charging station with a fresh battery.
Redundant back-ups ensure that if something does go wrong with your power supply in a critical situation, there are fail-safes in place to keep your vital equipment online. Medical cart batteries need at least one redundant component, and it's usually the ability to run multiple batteries at one time.
Whatever medical cart battery you choose, you'll have to compare its power output to your requirements to ensure that it meets your wattage requirements. Determine what equipment will be powered by the battery and consult the relevant user manuals to determine the power requirements before purchasing a battery system. Ensure that the battery you choose exceeds your power needs - that way it won't have to run at maximum output all of the time.
Medical part batteries that meet your technical requirements also have to be practical to use. After all, there's no point in calling a battery system mobile if it weighs 40+ lbs. Some medical cart batteries can add as many as 50 lbs to your workstations on wheels, while lighter rechargeable units could add just 10-15 lbs. Your staff will thank you for lightening their daily workload.
Any new piece of equipment poses challenges for the workplace, especially if it's to be widely adopted. All of the staff members that will interact with your new batteries in a clinical setting will need adequate training on how to do so, so it's probably best to prioritize ease-of-use when it comes to choosing a new medical cart battery. The last thing you want is a physician in a high-pressure situation struggling to change a battery on a vital piece of equipment.
Cooling and temperature control are two of the most important things to think about when choosing medical cart batteries for your healthcare facility. Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries like to work around 25 degrees Celsius, but they perform poorly and may become damaged when it gets too hot or cold. Fans are a viable cooling mechanism, but they are prone to preventative maintenance and malfunction, which is usually followed by an overheating incident. Choose a unit that's designed for minimal heat production, and doesn't use a fan as its primary cooling method.
Any new equipment that you introduce into your facility will impact daily workflows in predictable and unpredictable ways. It's not always possible to see the future, but it's important to clearly understand which processes will be impacted by your new batteries. Where is the best place to install the charging station? How frequently will charging happen? Where will this generate foot traffic? Should I put the charging station somewhere central, or out of the way? Think through how your staff will use the new batteries and plan a system that optimizes their efficiency.
It can be difficult to determine which battery is the best value unless you're a battery engineer, but one thing you can do is compare total throughput between different models. Multiply the hourly power consumption (watts) by the number of hours you expect the batteries to operate per charge. Example: If you have 40W of average hourly consumption and you need 5 hours of uptime, you will require at least 200 Watt-hours of battery capacity before a recharge. From there, you can determine how many cycles per week, month and year to determine how long a battery will last. You can compare these numbers to alternatives to determine which battery gives the best value for your money.
You shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to batteries, that's exactly what you want to do. A quality battery system with no visible wires, protected against fluid ingress and simple battery insertion/removal means that the unit is less likely to fail.
Choosing the right medical cart batteries doesn't have to mean poring over endless pages of specifications before coming to a consensus. A common sense solution could be as simple as understanding your actual power requirements, and finding a safe and reputable supplier with a great solution that meets your needs and helps you move towards more up-time and greater productivity at your healthcare facility. The most important steps are the ones you take to help make new technology a part of every day work for your nurses and doctors.