Mobile laptop carts are among the most valuable tools available to caregiving facilities offering point-of-care testing and treatment. However, like all other powered carts, a mobile computer cart is only as useful as its battery system.
Without a robust power system, your laptop battery power can fully discharge within hours, and peripherals such as scanners, extra monitors, or vital sign devices will be unusable.
Learn about the different types of power systems available for medical carts and mobile workstations and determine which type is the best for a healthcare environment.
Before exploring the different types of battery technology available, it is vital to understand why using the right technology is critical.
A mobile computer cart, also unknown as a Workstation On Wheels (WOW), is a piece of equipment intended to be used by medical personnel. Although highly qualified for caregiving, medical personnel are not expected to be technology specialists, nor are they expected to have the same body type and height.
For these reasons, your mobile-powered workstations must meet specific ergonomic and user-friendliness requirements, such as hot-swappable batteries, height adjustment features, and lightweight design.
Keep in mind your daily power needs as well; not all carts are created equal. A crash cart intended to carry resuscitation equipment, such as a defibrillator, uses significantly less power than a mobile laptop cart used for daily data entry.
Battery Technologies for Mobile Carts
The key factors to keep in mind when selecting a battery for your mobile carts are as follows:
- Capacity: How much battery life can you expect from a single fully-charged battery. In practical terms: Can it last an entire shift? Will it run out of power in the middle of the day?
- Cycle life: A battery cycle is when a battery has been fully discharged and fully recharged once. In practical terms: How many cycles does it take until the battery loses some of its maximum capacity?
- Charge rate: How quickly can you recharge a battery from empty?
- Safety: Is the battery safe to operate? Are there any long-term storage or handling concerns with this technology?
- Practicality: Does this battery support hot-swapping? Are charging stations easy to use?
The oldest technology available, and one of the best understood, is the lead-acid battery (Pb-acid). First invented in 1859, the lead-acid battery is one of the most widely-used battery technologies worldwide, mainly used in car batteries.
Although they possess a relatively high capacity (8 to 12 hours, 10 hours on average), lead-acid batteries have numerous disadvantages; they are heavy at 30 to 50 lbs. and have a poor cycle life, losing capacity in as few as 250 to 500 cycles. Also, they do not support hot-swapping, and the charge rate is about the same as their capacity.
Although generally safe, lead-acid batteries contain highly hazardous chemicals such as sulfuric acid, requiring careful handling and disposal.
Lithium-ion batteries (Li-ion) are among the most common today. This newer and rapidly developing technology is most frequently seen in laptops, mobile phones, and other electronic devices.
The high density of a Li-ion battery allows it to be much smaller and lighter. A typical single battery for mobile carts weighs 5 to 6 lbs. It also possesses a high cycle life, capable of withstanding up to 3,000 cycles before losing capacity, and can be recharged reasonably quickly (2 to 3 hours).
However, Li-ion batteries do not have enough capacity to be helpful in a healthcare environment. A single battery system usually only has enough power for 4 hours.
Although hot-swappable Li-ion batteries do exist, allowing a dual-battery system to extend the capacity up to 8 hours, the charging time and weight will also double, making them impractical.
Li-ion batteries tend to run very hotly while charging, which can introduce a fire hazard. Additionally, aging batteries may bulge and deform, presenting an explosion risk if not discarded safely.
Lithium-Iron-Phosphate batteries (LiFePO4) are among the most advanced on the market today. This battery chemistry offers the advantages of lead-acid and lithium-ion, mitigating or eliminating most of the disadvantages.
A typical Scott-Clark Medical LiFePO4 battery has a maximum capacity of 7-9 hours, supports FMCPT hot-swapping, fully charges in only 2.5 hours, and employs large, easy-to-read LED battery indicators using hours and minutes instead of percentage values.
A single battery weighs about 8 lbs, and untrained users can replace them within seconds. Although somewhat heavy, they are much lighter than lead-acid models and do not present the health risks seen in lithium-ion units.
LiFePO4 batteries, particularly those developed by Scott-Clark Medical, are ideal for mobile carts in healthcare facilities. Best of all, you can adapt your existing mobile cart fleet to use this technology, saving you the need to purchase new carts.
Best of all, your nursing staff does not need familiarity with IT or computing technology to operate and recharge the batteries. So there is no need to have dedicated IT or maintenance staff available to change the batteries.
With a dual hot-swappable battery system on a single cart, continuous power for multiple shifts (up to 18 hours with 2 fully charged batteries) is available, keeping your staff focused on their jobs instead of troubleshooting power issues.
Safe and Efficient Power Systems Improve Caregiving Quality
Scott-Clark Medical offers a range of new and refurbished medical carts, workstations on wheels, and custom mobile carts for healthcare professionals. We also provide high-quality LiFePO4 batteries, employing our patented FMCPT technology for maximum efficiency and convenience, available new or as a retrofit on your existing mobile cart fleet.
For a personalized quote or information regarding our carts and batteries, contact us at (512) 756-7300.