In the healthcare industry, there are various medical carts that hospital staff employ to improve patient-care outcomes and provide doctors and nurses with the supplies they need. A medical cart contains a series of shelves, trays, and drawers in a mobile unit for storing and transporting medical equipment, from medications to vital-sign monitoring systems. A crash cart, specifically, is for rendering emergency treatment when every second counts.
What is a Medical Cart?
A traditional medical cart is a mobile health care system that stores medical equipment. Traditionally, a medical cart is an example of a low-tech organizational solution in a hospital environment. It can be likened to a medical filing cabinet on wheels. However, as technology has continued to advance and hospitals increasingly use more digital means of communication and providing patient care, these mobile health systems have become more sophisticated.
Today, many medical carts contain onboard computers and battery systems that enable hospital personnel to update patient information in real-time, updating diagnostic records in the process.
What is a Crash Cart?
The difference between a standard medical cart and a crash cart is the urgency of its application. Crash carts are used by medical personnel to store and transport life-saving drugs and equipment in prompt response to medical emergencies. As a result, they must be relatively lightweight and maneuverable.
The precise layout and organization of its contents depend on various conditions, which is why it’s so important to communicate the needs of your hospital or medical practice to the manufacturer.
The crash cart should also have conductive casters to protect against electrostatic shock, which can cause discomfort and interfere with electrical equipment.
Crash carts are vital to any hospital setting, but the demands and precise contents of a crash cart will vary, sometimes considerably, depending on the type of hospital or department. A crash cart for an adult hospital, for example, may not carry the same drugs or supplies as one used in a pediatric hospital.
Some of the supplies you’ll find in a crash cart include the following:
A critical medical device that hospital personnel use to administer an electric shock to correct cardiac arrhythmia and restart a heartbeat if a patient suffers cardiac arrest.
This is for providing artificial ventilation during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Portable oxygen for transporting a patient on a ventilator. These may be mounted on the side or rear of the cart.
Crash carts usually contain a variety of critical medications, such as epinephrine for treating cardiac arrest, atropine for treating bradycardia, vasopressin for treating low blood pressure, and other life-saving drugs. These are usually contained in the top drawers of the cart for easy access.
As some of the medications that a crash cart contains are likely to be regulated, it’s necessary to be aware of its location in the hospital.
You’ll often find these in the top drawers or attached to a point on the rear.
This hard plastic box is vital, acting as a receptacle for the disposal of used hypodermic needles and razor blades. Any tool that is used to puncture or lacerate human skin and which constitutes a potential biohazard must be disposed of in this way to protect hospital staff and sanitation workers.
Like medical carts, crash carts enable doctors and nurses to render point-of-care treatments to patients, so mobility and lightweight construction are crucial. At the same time, the cart must be strong enough to withstand the rigors of a fast-paced hospital environment.
This means choosing a combination of materials that strikes a balance between durability and ease of use. Aluminum, for example, is lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and low maintenance. Stainless steel offers increased strength at the expense of weight.
Casters, likewise, determine how easily you and fellow staff members can maneuver the cart, especially in confined spaces and where careful cornering is necessary.
Crash carts, like medical carts in general, need to be secure for a variety of reasons. The equipment and medical supplies that these systems contain can be hazardous. Simple medical errors can cause potentially life-threatening complications due to the administration of incorrect medication or dosage to a patient.
Crash carts may also store powerful drugs, which have a high potential for abuse, such as opiate analgesics. This requires the use of proper locking systems and that staff not leave medical carts unattended or unsupervised.
The locking system can range from low-tech key locking options to electronic biometric systems and proximity cards. A simpler locking system is acceptable for drugs or supplies with a low potential for abuse or for which complications due to error are not life-threatening.
The storage of drugs and medical devices is governed by state and federal law, so you should be aware of these requirements and ensure that whatever system you buy is compliant.
A security system is only one part of a comprehensive set of security protocols that you and your staff must follow to protect your vital equipment against pilferage. One of these is to keep locked carts in proximity to nursing stations or other high-traffic environments and under constant video surveillance.
Rather than being limited to analog technology, modern touch-panel personal computer systems and RFID readers enable medical personnel to enter patient information into an easily accessible database, reduce the risk of error, and allow hospital staff to maintain up-to-date records.
Many modern medical carts use RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags as a form of identification. In the RFID system, a reader transmits electromagnetic radio waves to a compatible tag, which transmits digital data to the reader. This data is typically an identifying inventory number, which can translate to patient and medication information.
There are two types of RFID tags: active and passive. In active tagging systems, the tag has its own independent power source. This increases the range at which the reader can scan the tag — sometimes up to several hundred meters. In passive tagging, the tag is energized by the reader’s interrogating radio waves. This is more appropriate for close-range applications, such as the modern hospital.
Hospital staff attach passive RFID tags to medications so that they can be accurately matched to the patient and tracked. Staff members may also use RFID tagging to log their access to the cart’s contents. RFID readers are a crucial component on crash carts, enabling staff to identify patients quickly and access life-saving electronic information in an instant.
While RFID systems can be useful for ensuring proper identification of patient medications and dosages, minimizing the risk of medical errors, they can also serve another vital purpose. A common system for warehouse operations, RFID tagging, can play a critical role in inventory management.
This is equally true regarding hospitals and other medical facilities. In the average workday, a medical cart may be used by dozens of different staff members. As a result, inventory items may be lost. RFID systems can enable efficient inventory management and control, allowing pharmacists and other personnel to track the use and disposal of vital medications.
You will also benefit from this system in another way: medical staff will be alerted when medication is nearing its expiration so it can be rotated out in favor of fresh supplies.
A crash cart contents should be regularly evaluated and restocked to ensure that staff can always access the equipment and medications they need when they need them most. When performed manually, this process can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. The use of an inventory-management system can simplify and streamline this essential task.
As the demands placed on hospitals and their staff are in a constant state of flux, the ever-changing work environment can sometimes require a tailor-made solution. When ordering medical carts for your hospital or medical facility, consider manufacturers and suppliers who are willing to work with you to find the best option for your specific circumstances.
If you run a pediatric hospital or specialty practice, the demands placed on your staff and equipment can vary considerably from general hospitals.
Drawer space and proper division are critical to organization. Consequently, it’s worth considering models that allow you to customize or configure the layout of drawers yourself, providing you with the on-site flexibility that comes with evolving conditions.
Battery systems are necessary for many types of medical equipment, such as defibrillators and touch-panel computers. As part of evolving technology, more advanced and user-friendly battery systems are available for crash and other types of medical carts. You should opt for a battery pack that can last for 6 to 10 hours that you can swap out for a freshly charged battery with minimal effort.
The battery should be relatively compact and easy to move. The system should provide a visual indicator of the charge only when its charge drops to 20 minutes or less. Otherwise, it should not distract medical staff.
For those carts that do not use onboard computer systems, an internal battery for powering electronic locking systems is probably your best bet.
You should find a manufacturer that can provide a list of peripheral options to ensure that your cart is as well-equipped as possible. These can range from RFID readers to wristband printers.
Respond Faster to Patient Needs With Medical Crash Cart
At Scott-Clark Medical, we know how critical crash carts are to rendering emergency medical care and saving lives. When time is of the essence, you want to know that your crash cart will perform optimally.
We also understand that if drugs are stolen or administered to the wrong patient, the consequences can be dire. That’s why we take security and inventory management systems seriously. You need to feel confident that the valuable contents of the cart are well-managed. This is necessary for both the safety of patients and hospital liability.
If you’d like to discuss custom crash cart solutions with us, call us at (512) 756-7300. We can help you determine the best options for your hospital environment.