medical cart computers and medical computers

The Differences Between Antimicrobial Housings and Coatings

Per the CDC, Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAIs) infect one in 20 patients daily. This costs healthcare several billion dollars a year—no trifling matter. Some sources cite that UTIs and pneumonia are the top two most common HAIs, with pneumonia being the top infection that claims lives. It’s a scary thought to have one of the most infectious diseases on a surface nearby a patient going through surgery, and so every precaution must be taken to avoid patients getting infected via the unseen enemy. With such a bombardment of invisible microbes and pathogens capable of infection, it’s not possible to reduce all infections at all times. However, using what’s called an antimicrobial surface on all medical surfaces is a step in the right direction.

If you work in healthcare, you’ve likely seen some label or notifying mark on a medical cart saying the cart in use has an antimicrobial surface. It’s a no-brainer that the antimicrobial surface is a necessary feature with a medical cart computer in a hospital to reduce the spread of disease and infection. What you’re probably not aware of is that there isn’t just one method of making the plastics so they’re worthy of the antimicrobial label. There are several different materials considered antimicrobial. Silver, for example, is capable of reducing microbial activity, but we doubt that anyone would want to buy a medical computer housed in silver—that’s probably best reserved for surgical instruments. Constructing an antimicrobial surface takes a proper balance of finding the right materials for the work, the best method of creating the housing, and an option that doesn’t break the bank.

Plus, “antimicrobial” means something that discourages microbe growth in one way or another. A microbe is a general definition that fits plenty of microorganisms, but for the purposes of this blog, the definitions should be handled in a general fashion. Here are some methods of producing an antimicrobial surface for medical computers and why one should be considered over the other when in the market for new technology.

A Coating that Cleans Itself

A lot of medical grade computer manufacturers will label their hardware as antimicrobial or “self-cleaning,” but in the details of the product documentation, you’ll likely find it features an antimicrobial coating. This method to keep the computer surface clean has a huge disadvantage: it degrades over the span of several months. The coating flakes off when interacting with light, shedding off microbes as well. The constant disinfection that is required in a hospital setting will also degrade an antimicrobial coating. It’s true the product is self-cleaning, but only for the suggested timespan (likely offered in the documentation too). Plus, that doesn’t speak about the capability of inactivating microbes or discouraging growth. Another kind of coating is an application of silver nanoparticles or biocides, but much like the former, the coating wears off over time. This brings into question how effective a medical computer with a coating might be over the course of its lifespan—it could likely render the computer’s antimicrobial feature obsolete quickly.

The Antimicrobial Everlasting Housing

Medical computers with antimicrobial housings—not coatings—degrade less over time since there’s no “shedding.” There’s a superior method of producing an antimicrobial plastic for a computer: instead of using the short-term technology found with coatings that degrade over time, the best companies add an antimicrobial agent into the manufacturing process of the resin that lasts longer than a coating. The agent used not only discourages growth, it actually is highly toxic to microbes and bacteria. Instead of shedding off infections, they’re reduced on the surface of the plastic housing. It’s a more effective method of reducing microbe activity.

Beyond Coatings and Housings

For starters, the medical computers used nearby patients should be disinfected frequently. Plus, it helps to have a high ingress protection for frequent disinfections—over time, liquids can seep into the innards of equipment and shorten the expected lifetime of the computer. An IP65 rating means the front bezel is sealed against direct sprays, so the computer can be continuously cleaned without fear of shorting the internal components or wearing away anything protective. Beyond that, using hygiene toolkits and practicing constant hand hygiene are additional safety methods to ensure a reduction in HAIs. It is also important to note that a computer is rarely a stand alone device in a hospital setting. They are often mounted on medical carts or other equipment. It is important that the medical cart is antimicrobial as well, otherwise you aren’t really preventing the spread of anything.

Using the best technology with the most robust features in a hospital setting is the best way to guard your hospital or clinic against HAIs. An antimicrobial coating on a medical computer doesn’t last as long as the computer itself—it’s best to find more sophisticated technology with stronger features, particularly a computer with antimicrobial housing with agents mixed into the resin of its plastic. Contact us to learn more.

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