Medical supply carts are the backbone of any busy medical facility. By allowing medical staff to move unencumbered, wheeled medical carts can improve efficiency and decrease patient wait times. Emergency crash carts can save lives, so they must be able to move quickly to a patient’s location without wheels sticking or running into walls.
The best powered carts have long-lasting batteries with the “hot swap” system, which allows batteries to be replaced on-the-go without interrupting power. Older medical carts can be retrofitted with these batteries, replacing the cart entirely may be the best option for older carts. Newer carts have better drawer and wheel designs to minimize sanitation issues and strain on nurses’ shoulders and back.
Medical Supply Carts on Wheels with Drawers
Medical supply storage needs vary from hospital to hospital, but the need for mobile medical carts is universal. Wheeled medical supply carts offer an easy way for nurses and other staff to move supplies and equipment between patient rooms, allowing hospitals to reduce overall equipment costs.
Storing and transporting medication is particularly sensitive, and requires carts with securely locking drawers. While medical cabinets attached to a wall are good for long-term storage, daily medications or medications for emergencies are much more useful in a mobile cart. Proximity card systems can be installed on carts to allow keyless entry by multiple staff, and barcode scanning systems make sure the correct medications are administered.
Even equipment carts can benefit from having drawers that allow easy storage of pens, tape, ID cards, and other essentials. When moving a cart around, having items stored securely instead of rolling around on top allows for a safer and more professional work environment. It also makes it easier for staff on each shift to find what they need.
Hospital Utility Crash Carts
In the event of an emergency, staff may be scrambling to locate the correct supplies to save a patient’s life. A clearly organized and labeled crash cart can make all the difference when seconds count. Crash carts should keep pediatric medications with the appropriate dosages in a separate, clearly-labeled drawer.
Crash carts must have smooth casters and be compact and lightweight to allow for ease of movement. However, they must also have reliable and secure batteries to make sure patients’ vitals can be properly monitored without interruption. Balancing weight, size, and functionality is important for any cart, but is especially critical for crash carts.
Multi-story facilities often have one crash cart per floor, and keep it in a central location. Very large hospitals should consider having more, though, especially for intensive care units or other high-need areas.
Medical Carts to Fit Your Needs
Hospitals typically need separate crash carts for pediatric wards, operating rooms, intensive care units, and other specialized areas. However, all these carts have a common need for ample storage space. Carts should have the smallest footprint possible to aid in maneuvering inside rooms, but with the right combination of drawer sizes and shapes, they can provide sufficient storage.
Having an adequate supply of specialized carts can save precious minutes during a given staff member’s shift. A nursing home, for example, will have very different medication and equipment needs than a neonatal unit. In some cases, having different types of medication in the same cart is possible, but this should be avoided to keep staff from having to chase down supplies.
Modern medical carts are also more customizable than ever, and can have highly tailored combinations of equipment, drawers, and more. Even after purchase, many carts can be adjusted to suit individual users’ heights, or can have the batteries and other equipment replaced as needed.
Carts can also be tailored for veterinary clinics, which typically require similar crash carts and general supply carts. The possibilities are limitless, thanks to cart manufacturers’ willingness to listen to medical facilities’ exact needs.
Types of Medical Utility Carts
Medical facilities need a large range of carts in addition to crash carts. Isolation carts have many of the same features as standard medication and storage carts, but have a streamlined design to make sanitation easier and prevent disease transmission between patients.
Multi-purpose transfer carts and general storage carts allow nurses and staff technicians to move and resupply patient rooms and other carts in an organized and efficient way. Anesthesia carts provide a more specialized version of this storage, as they are designed to organize a supply of IVs and medication. Treatment carts for pediatric wards often require different sizes of supplies and different medications, and other specialized wards have their own special needs as well.
Although nurses and other medical staff tend to be physically strong, they have a limit to their abilities. A lightweight cart that rolls easily can help ensure that staff can carry out their duties without risk of injury or excessive fatigue. Carts that don’t have heavy equipment on them can be made of more lightweight materials than ones with computers or multiple batteries.
Increasing Nurse Efficiency
Studies on medical carts and their usage are still limited in scope. However, one small study found that nurses reported significantly fewer trips to the central medication room when provided with a locking medication cart. The same is likely true for other supplies and tasks, as carts allow nurses to move more goods than they normally would be able to carry.
Hospital directors and procurement staff should consult with nurses and other frontline staff before buying new carts, as the staff may have specific concerns or requests. In general, nurses will have the same general needs: easy-to-move wheels, ample drawer space, and adequate batteries for carts that require them.
Maintaining Medical Carts
A high-quality medical cart will need minimal repairs over the course of its lifetime. However, daily resupplying and cleaning is necessary to make each staff member’s shift successful. Hospital management must clearly communicate the expectations for cart cleaning and restocking, especially when a new cart is introduced into a ward.
Eventually, the charge time for batteries will begin to grow shorter, which is an inevitable part of their aging. Batteries are typically easy to replace, so medical facilities will rarely have to replace an entire cart. Even the wheels on modern carts are well-designed to prevent sticking and other issues.
Nursing staff should communicate with IT staff if there are ever problems related to battery life, locking and unlocking of medication drawers, or other minor issues. A well-designed cart can be fixed easily without any assistance from the manufacturer.
What to Look for When Purchasing Medical Supply Carts
Older medical supply carts that include electronic equipment use heavy batteries or must be plugged into a wall outlet every few hours. While most hospitals have many outlets in each room, sometimes the optimal location for a cart won’t be directly by an outlet. Long cords can post a trip hazard, especially for patients with limited mobility.
Plus, many hospital rooms have other equipment that must be plugged in, limiting the number of outlets available for carts. In order to allow staff to work as quickly and efficiently as possible, battery capacity and ease of use should be a top consideration when selecting a cart.
Materials are also important for carts, as cheap materials can cause a cart to break or be difficult to sanitize. Stainless steel is strong and easy to sanitize, and aluminum is lightweight but still strong enough for most purposes. Plastic can be an appropriate material for carts if it is very durable. Either way, carts must also be free of crevices and other difficult-to-clean areas in order to allow for proper sanitation.
Which Medical Supply Cart Should You Buy?
Not all carts need a hot-swap battery system, but storage space and easy-to-steer wheels are essential for any cart. The best wheeled medical supply carts are designed with drawers that are easy to push and pull open, with lockable drawers a must for medication carts. Ease-of-use considerations, like dual mouse trays for left- or right-handed use, are also a major plus.
Scott-Clark Medical has a wide range of reliable and easy-to-use medical supply carts that can be customized for any hospital ward or clinic. Our patented FMCPT Swap Option Power System allows nurses and other staff to change batteries as needed without interrupting power to the cart’s equipment. Plus, our designs and software are easy for nursing and IT staff to troubleshoot. The increased efficiency can improve patient outcomes, no matter who your hospital serves.