Mobile medical carts with onboard power systems offer numerous benefits to clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. Powered carts allow nursing staff to bring computers and medical equipment anywhere in the facility without turning the power off.

However, the type of batteries used and the underlying battery technology play a significant role in determining whether your fleet of mobile computer carts is as efficient as possible.

Why Battery Technology Matters

Battery-powered carts allow nursing staff to bring the computer to the patient’s bedside. This enables them to enter data, update electronic health records (EHR), and use auxiliary equipment without being tethered to a wall outlet or making repeated trips to a computer room. However, these portable power systems’ efficiency depends on the battery technology integrated into the cart.

All batteries have unavoidable limitations that nursing staff must manage in the middle of their workflows. They have limited autonomy and require recharging to continue operating. The batteries must also be safe to handle and easy to use.

The core of any mobile power system is the battery’s chemistry. The three most common battery chemistries for mobile computer carts are lead-acid, lithium-ion, and lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePO4).

Lead-Acid Batteries

French physicist Gaston Planté invented the first lead-acid battery in 1859, making lead-acid technology one of the oldest types of rechargeable battery chemistries.
Planté’s invention became one of the world’s most widely-produced rechargeable battery types, with one of the most common applications for this battery chemistry being car batteries.

The primary advantages of lead-acid batteries on mobile computer carts are the low cost of ownership and ease of production. Lead-acid batteries are inexpensive and have enough capacity to supply power during an entire nursing shift. Modern lead-acid batteries also support hot-swapping and multi-battery setups, extending the battery system’s life.

However, lead-acid batteries also present numerous disadvantages. A single battery can weigh up to 30 lbs. Multi-battery setups can make a mobile cart too heavy and cumbersome to maneuver.

Another issue with lead-acid batteries is charging time, which roughly equals their operational time. For example, an 8-hour lead-acid battery requires almost as many hours to recharge, which can be a significant disadvantage in time-sensitive situations, such as in intensive care wards and the emergency room.

Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) is the battery chemistry used in most rechargeable devices, from your smartphone to laptops. They use smaller, denser, and more energy-efficient energy cells.

Lithium battery technology was designed to address the problems introduced by their lead-acid counterparts, offering much smaller and lighter battery units and much quicker charging and discharging rates. For example, you can fully charge a high-capacity lithium-ion battery designed for a mobile medical cart in as little as 3 to 4 hours.

The low weight makes them naturally suited for hot-swap battery setups, and some mobile medical carts using lithium batteries can carry up to five batteries at once.

However, Li-ion batteries have a lower capacity than their lead-acid counterparts, rarely exceeding 6 hours per unit. Nursing staff assigned to patient care must use multi-battery setups or make repeated recharging trips to last the entire shift.

When at full load (charging or powering many devices), Li-ion batteries tend to overheat, and the heat generated increases the older the battery becomes. This property presents a safety risk for nursing staff, who risk burn injuries while swapping batteries.

Lithium-Iron-Phosphate Batteries

Lithium-Iron-Phosphate (LiFePO4) is a newer battery technology in the same family of lithium-based batteries as lithium-ion but uses different elements.

LiFePO4 cells are less dense than lithium-ion, meaning they cannot support charge and discharge rates as high as their Li-ion counterparts. However, this isn’t a disadvantage for mobile computer carts, and the trade-off is worth it. Their long-term lifespan is up to 10 times that of an equivalent lithium-ion battery, and they offer faster charging rates.

The lower energy density also eliminates safety risks; LiFePO4 batteries do not get as hot as Li-ion batteries and are safe to handle at all times. While the average LiFePO4 battery is heavier than a lithium-ion equivalent, they remain significantly lighter than lead-acid, making them easy to handle, swap, and transport.

For example, the high-capacity Scott-Clark Medical URB0012 battery uses LiFePO4 chemistry and has a maximum operation of up to 9 hours on a mobile computer cart. It weighs just 8.1 lbs. and can be charged from 0% to 100% in as little as 3 hours.

Install the Most Efficient Batteries on Your Mobile Medical Carts

Scott-Clark Medical’s patented Flexible Mobile Cart Power Technology includes high-capacity, long-lasting LiFePO4 batteries. These mobile cart batteries were designed to be as convenient as possible to hot-swap and recharge to help your medical facility focus on patient care instead of battery management. For more information, contact us at (512) 756-7300.

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