The healthcare industry is a unique setting. Devices and equipment most people consider mundane have to be customized to medical facilities’ strict requirements. Medical computers and tablets are used in hospitals, for example, not typical off-the-shelf brands found in most offices and at home. They are built and certified as medical grade, which allows them to work safely near patients as well as medical devices like an automated IV drip. Other features include fanless design and rated IP65 seal to handle frequent cleanings, and legacy ports to work with many vital but unsupported hospital devices and equipment.

Carts to store, move, and distribute equipment and supplies in medical settings are similarly customized. We cover one such medical cart, the isolation cart, today. Besides its purpose, we also discuss the main features for buyers to look out for when purchasing one or more for their hospitals or similar facilities. 

What is the Purpose of Isolation Carts? 

Isolation carts are medical carts designed to store personal protective equipment (PPE) for use by healthcare providers. Because of this, isolation carts are sometimes referred to as PPE carts.    

Isolation carts are primarily found in hospitals. They are usually located in rooms and even wards configured to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, germs, microbes, and other pathogens. This helps ensure that the isolated patients get all the necessary services in a timely manner with minimal risk of infection to medical staff and the rest of the hospital. The Central Sterile Supply Department (CSSD) or similar department in most hospitals is responsible for making sure the carts are regularly sanitized and restocked for use.  

What Should be in an Isolation Cart? 

Isolation carts are stocked and kept in either the patient’s room or just outside of it. Hospitals do so to reduce the risk of contamination – the more a cart moves about the facility, the greater the chance it can pick up something from other parts of the hospital. 

Medical staff follow “precautions,” or categories, on how to use PPE from the carts. The National Health Care Provider Solutions (NHCPS) provides guidelines on what conditions to use the masks, gloves, gowns, etc. They are:

Contact Precautions

Contact precautions are intended to stop or at least reduce the risk of infection through direct touch of the patient or items in the room.

Droplet Precautions

Droplet precautions aim to prevent or lessen the chances of infection found in droplets which are then transmitted by coughing and sneezing. 

Airborne Precautions

Airborne precautions aim to protect medical staff and personnel, visitors, and other patients from pathogens found on dust and similar items in the air.

Neutropenic Precautions

Neutropenic precautions protect patients with neutropenia, which is an abnormally low count of certain types of white blood cells. This makes them more vulnerable to infection. 

Radiation Precautions

Radiation precautions are used to protect others from the patient, who will be emitting radiation from radioiodine as part of their treatment. It may take several days for the radiation to wear off. 

Every hospital isolation cart, to protect patients under any of these categories, should have the the following PPE: 

  • Disinfectant wipes – to kill or reduce germs on surfaces and skin.
  • Face masks – to protect the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose.
  • Face shields – to shield the mucous membranes of the face, mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Gloves – provide protection to the skin and hands.
  • Goggles – to protect the eyes.
  • Gowns and aprons – to protect skin and clothing.
  • Respirators – to prevent the inhalation of airborne pathogens.
  • Shoe covers – to prevent the user from tracking infectious material on their footwear. 

Market for Isolation carts

Isolation carts, as can be seen above, play an important role in ensuring the hospital environment is as safe and sterile as possible. When your purchasing department is shopping for them, it should consider the following four characteristics:

Cart Durability

As mentioned earlier, many hospitals have their CSSD keep their isolation carts as sterile as possible. This means they must be made of materials able to withstand the harsh cleaning processes used by the department. Powder-coated aluminum or stainless steel are found in the best isolation carts. They are easy to clean and maintain, as well as strong enough to stand the rigors of hospital use. 

Drawer Capacity

PPE items from masks to (folded) gowns and aprons come in many different sizes and shapes. The various multiple drawers of the isolation carts should be wide and deep enough to hold them in virtually any configuration. They should be fully extendable as well. This makes it easy for healthcare workers and even visitors to retrieve items stored in any section of the drawer including at the back. 

Easy Identification 

The isolation cart should come with a labeling system to make it easy to find and identify each piece of its contents. Visible storage wells on top should be able to hold masks and various-sized latex gloves as well as quickly identify them. All drawers should have labels to make it clear what is within each drawer. 

Space Saving

Space is at a premium in hospitals. Rooms and hallways must be spacious to allow the rapid transportation of patient beds from whatever room or department is necessary for the patient’s care. Also important is the space in patient’s rooms to house necessary medical devices and equipment like IV drips and medical grade monitors to display vital signs.  

So isolation carts must be designed to store all necessary PPE while still conserving space, or “footprint.” Some have molded-in handles to reduce their size. Others have recessed sides to take less space, while others have sides that can be converted to hold items like glove boxes and wastebaskets. Dividers can be used in the drawers to make storing more than one product in them easier. 

Closing Thoughts

Isolation carts are medical carts specialized to store PPE for healthcare staff to use when caring for patients in isolation. They are customized, like medical computers, for the hospital setting’s unique challenges with traits ranging from fully extendable drawers to a small footprint.   

Contact an expert at Cybernet if you’re interested in how to pick the best isolation carts for your healthcare group’s hospitals and other facilities.