Modern medical workstations benefit from battery systems, allowing medical professionals to use and power various electronics, including medical devices. However, medical cart batteries require adherence to safety and maintenance guidelines to ensure optimal performance and safe handling.
Types of Battery-Powered Carts
Medical carts that use battery systems include point-of-care carts, crash carts, and carts designed to store medication in locked drawers for retrieval and distribution. In addition to barcode scanners, wristband printers, and electronic signature pads, medical carts also allow nurses and doctors to remotely use laptops and desktop computers.
Types of Batteries
Medical technology uses several different types of battery systems—the traditional lead-acid battery used to be the mainstay in medical carts and other equipment. Lead-acid batteries are still used extensively in automobiles. However, the tide is shifting, and more medical cart manufacturers use alternatives that afford higher energy densities.
Lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePO) batteries provide more consistent power during the discharge cycle. While lead-acid batteries require a long time to recharge, LiFePO batteries take a fraction of the time (e.g., the difference between 3 or 4 hours and 10). Lead-acid batteries are also heavier than lithium-ion (Li-ion) and LiFePO batteries.
When you have battery-powered medical carts in your medical facility, it’s necessary to perform general maintenance. As part of maintenance, you should follow specific guidelines regarding battery usage to ensure your battery systems remain safe and functional.
Follow manufacturer guidelines
Always follow the manufacturer’s advice regarding battery usage and replacement. You should replace batteries periodically. Consult the manufacturer if your batteries don’t charge properly or to capacity. You can also ask the company whether it supplies documentation regarding maintenance.
Inspect and notify
You should conduct periodic inspections of your medical cart battery systems to determine whether they’re performing as they should be. Never use batteries that show any signs of damage. If the casing of a battery appears to be swollen, bulged, or cracked, you should log this information and notify the manufacturer. The same is true if the battery is leaking. It’s also important to inspect battery chargers and carts for battery systems or components that are overheating.
Lithium-ion and lithium-iron-phosphate batteries are generally safe to use and stable, but there are circumstances where the battery may become hazardous. For example, if the battery is defective or exposed to extreme heat, there is a potential for it to malfunction.
Avoid heat sources
Keep battery systems away from heat sources. It’s important to keep flammable and potentially explosive or volatile chemicals away from batteries to increase the safety of your working environment. If necessary, survey the locations of all chargers or charging stations in your hospital or practice.
All charging stations should be in obvious areas where fires cannot propagate quickly. Don’t place battery systems or chargers in confined spaces where there’s poor air circulation either.
Maintain a clean work environment
While point-of-care and other battery-powered carts often use dissipative casters to reduce the buildup of static electricity, the risk of electrostatic shock increases when dust and lint accumulate. Clean chargers, carts, and nearby work surfaces regularly to avoid this problem.
Mop up spills immediately whenever they occur and keep your work environment tidy and dry for safety.
In addition to keeping work areas clean, they should also be free from unnecessary clutter. Don’t allow anything to block a charging station’s vents because this can cause overheating and, potentially, a short.
Operate battery chargers in non-patient areas
Whether you’re operating or storing battery chargers or charger-equipped medical carts, you should conduct these activities outside of patient rooms.
Don’t attach objects to the charger
Do not tape or attach anything to the battery charger. This can create a potential fire hazard, putting anyone in the vicinity at risk.
In the Event of Fire
Should a battery-related fire occur, don’t touch the battery system. Instead, unplug the charger or turn the cart’s power off, provided you can do so safely, and ensure that neither the battery nor the medical cart is in proximity to either patients or staff members. If it is, move it to another area. Report the fire per the hospital’s standard protocol. An electrical fire is categorized as a Class C fire when it involves a power source.
You should have ready access to appropriately rated fire extinguishers using halon or halocarbon agents. Read and memorize the instructions beforehand. Don’t wait until you need to use the device to learn how to operate it.
A helpful acronym used to teach fire extinguisher use is “PASS”: pull, aim, squeeze, and sweep. First, pull the pin. Second, aim the nozzle at the base of the fire. Third, squeeze the handle or lever to discharge the device. Fourth, sweep the fire from left to right with the nozzle.
Hot Swappable and Rechargeable Batteries
Traditionally, medical carts used lead-acid batteries or rechargeable batteries that required service interruption when replacing or recharging the system. At Scott-Clark Medical, we supply lithium-iron-phosphate rechargeable battery systems with our carts that are also hot swappable. While any battery system can experience a short circuit, the risks associated with LiFePO batteries are generally lower than with other types.
This means that when one battery needs to charge, another keeps the computer system running. You never have to shut down the medical cart computers or other electronic devices onboard, minimizing downtime and providing uninterrupted service during a 6 to 10-hour shift.
Scott-Clark Medical Batteries are Industry Leaders
At Scott-Clark Medical, we manufacture a wide range of medical carts to suit the specific needs of our clients. We also specialize in state-of-the-art rechargeable battery technology. As a result, we understand the risks associated with improper handling and maintenance of battery systems.
Give us a call at (512) 756-7300, and we’ll help you keep your battery systems operating at optimum efficiency.