In the past we discussed the uses for computers in a medical healthcare facility or hospital. While we provided some solid guidelines, we didn’t address the various departments, their specialties, and unique requirements.

Here we’ll be covering one of them ﹘ the emergency department or emergency room  ﹘  from its function in patient treatment to the “why’s” a medical computer is best for this important department.

The Role of the Emergency Department 

The emergency department (ED), more well-known as the emergency room (ER), is a medical treatment facility specializing in emergency medicine. This medical specialty focuses on the treatment of illnesses or injuries that requires immediate attention. Examples include out-of-control asthma to severe trauma from an auto accident.

Other names for the ER include the accident and emergency department (A&E), emergency ward (EW), and the casualty department.

ERs are usually found in a hospital or other primary care center. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services classifies two types of ERs: Type A, the majority, which are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year; and Type B, which have more limited open hours.

How an ER Works

Working in the ER requires a different approach than most hospital departments. Its staff have to deal with a variety of patient conditions, most of them unexpected. Patients can arrive in unstable conditions and require immediate attention. Many may be unconscious. This makes it near impossible to obtain their medical history, allergies, and blood type. 

ER staff are trained to work quickly and effectively even with minimal information. This is similar to ambulance and fire crews, combat medics, search and rescue teams, and disaster response teams.   

Patients are not seen in the order of their arrival. Instead every ER has a triage or triaging area. “Triage” is defined as prioritizing patient care based on the severity of the injury / illness, prognosis, as well as availability of resources. ER staff see the most severe cases first: a bleeding patient brought in by ambulance or medical helicopter will take precedence over someone wanting treatment for the sniffles. 

Interestingly, many triage areas will also quickly sort out people who are least sick for treatment. This is called “treat and release.” This helps clear the ER. The result is patients with non-life threatening but moderate medical needs like a sprained ankle end up waiting the longest for medical attention. 

In the US, the top 10 problems most often seen in ERs are:

  1. Chest Pains
  2. Abdominal Pain
  3. Toothaches
  4. Sprains and Broken Bones
  5. Upper Respiratory Infections
  6. Cuts and Contusions
  7. Back Pain
  8. Skin Infections
  9. Foreign Objects in the Body
  10. Headaches

The overall ER visit rate in the US has remained stable from 2009 through 2019 according to the CDC. In 2019, there were an estimated 151 million emergency room visits across the country. 

What’s In an Emergency Room?

An ER is a large department. A full-fledged one has the following areas of care:

Triage Area

As described above. An experienced triage nurse usually mans this station. 

Resuscitation Area

This is the area most people think of as the ER, especially if their only experience with one is seen on medical shows.

The resuscitation area is dedicated to the immediate care of patients and victims in cardiac arrest or having breathing difficulties (or not breathing at all). It usually consists of two or more resuscitation beds connected with resuscitative equipment like monitors, defibrillators, airway, intubation and surgical devices.

Major Trauma / Medical Areas

This is another area people envision when asked what happens in an ER. 

Car accidents and serious falls are two examples of what would be treated in this area. The patients are usually admitted into the hospital after being stabilized. 

Consultation Rooms

“Non-emergency” medical issues like colds, splinter in one’s finger, or dry lips due to the weather are treated in this area.  

Minor Procedure Rooms

Patients needing minor surgical procedures like the washing, dressing, and suturing of wounds, or the splinting of fractures or dislocations are done in these rooms. 

Observation Units

There are where patients who need to be admitted and observed for less than 24 hours are placed. They include those suffering from non-cardiac chest pain, acute asthma, vague abdominal pain, a minor head injury, acute depression, and dehydration.

Other areas in an ER include the waiting room, the Injection room, a 24-hour pharmacy, prayer room, library and reading rooms for staff, and the EMS (Ambulance) Coordination Center.

Roles of ER Doctor and Staff

Emergency medicine physicians are the medical equivalent of a Jack-of-all-Trades. They know a little of every speciality: cardiology, pulmonary, family practice, etc. “Spot-check medicine” is another way to describe what they do.

They have to be. ER providers never know what’s coming through check-in, the ambulance bay, or both at any given moment. One patient may be suffering a massive chest trauma; the next, a case of urinary tract infection. 

Many providers take snapshots of a person’s medical history and make quick decisions about what to do next. Much of the job is knowing how to get patients stabilized and where to go for help after that. 

Other medical staff found in the ER include:

  • Registrars, who are senior doctors working towards becoming specialists
  • Hospital medical officers (non-specialists who work in the emergency department)
  • Interns
  • Nurse Practitioners 
  • Physiotherapists (physical therapist), occupational therapists, emergency department pharmacists, and other allied health professionals
  • A mental health emergency care team
  • Patient Care coordinators
  • General practitioners

What Tools Do ER Doctors Use?

The ER is equipped with a variety of medical devices to handle the differing cases coming in. A listing of common ones include: 

  • Defibrillators, automatic ventilation and CPR machines, and bleeding control dressings are a must. As pointed out earlier, patients suffering cardiac arrest and major trauma are relatively common cases handled in the ER.
  • Because time is an essential factor in emergency medicine, a typical ER has its own diagnostic equipment like vital signs monitors. This helps staff avoid waiting for those installed elsewhere in the hospital. 
  • Radiographic examination rooms found in ERs are usually staffed by dedicated radiographers and come with CT scanners and ultrasonography equipment. 
  • Unsurprisingly, laboratory requests from ER are handled on a priority basis by the hospital lab. The information is vital in proper diagnosis. Some ERs may have their own “STAT Lab” for basic laboratory results for blood counts, blood typing, toxicology screens, etc.

Best Medical Computers for ER: What to Look For

Medical computers used in the emergency room are primarily for electronic medical records (EMR) and patient monitoring software. They should be purpose-built to work effectively in this chaotic environment. These computers should have such features like: 

  • Antimicrobial properties: The ER can be a hotbed of pathogens from patients in the waiting room or those brought in via ambulance. It’s important that medical computers are kept as clean as possible. Antimicrobial coatings can be spayed on computers, inhibiting microbes from growing on them. Unfortunately, the coating deteriorates and requires frequent application. Computers whose casings are mixed with an antimicrobial resin do not need such application. This frees the ER staff who can then focus more on their patients. 
  • Medical Grade: Computers that are medical grade (60601-1 certified) have been tested so they won’t interfere with the potentially nearby life-sustaining or saving medical devices found in the department. 
  • Fanless Design: The cooling fans of off-the-shelf computers draw in air and blast it out. This can circulate air-borne pathogens across the ER. Medical computers with fanless design cool themselves without risk of spreading disease.
  • IP65 Rated: Computers used in the ER should be sealed from particulates, dust, and from direct jets of water. That level of seal should be IP65 rated. This allows them to be cleaned more often, more thoroughly, and by harsher disinfectants than an off-the-shelf PC. 

Computers used in the ER should include medical tablets. This allows providers and staff to move rapidly between patients and record information for their EMR. Medical computers and medical grade monitors can also be mounted on workstation on wheels for similar mobility.  

Closing Comments

It’s no secret that even on the best of days, emergency rooms are chaotic. From injuries sustained from auto accidents to heart attacks, more often than not, patients in the ER are facing life-or-death medical emergencies. This is why having the most technologically advanced equipment is a must. 

If your hospital healthcare organization is looking for the best medical computers for their emergency rooms, contact a representative from Cybernet. As a true device manufacturer, Cybernet can customize products to meet your specific needs in a timely and cost-effective manner. 

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