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 intensive care unit  ﹘  from its function in patient treatment to the “why’s” a medical computer is best for this important department.

What It Means for a Patient to Be In the ICU

ICU means intensive care unit. It is a special department in a hospital or healthcare facility that provides intensive care medicine. ICU is also known as an intensive therapy unit, intensive treatment unit (ITU) or critical care unit (CCU). 

Intensive care medicine deals with severe or life-threatening illnesses and injuries. Examples include:

  • Heart problems (unstable angina)
  • Lung problems (collapse of part or all of the lung)
  • Organ failure (kidney or liver failure)
  • Brain trauma (concussion) 
  • Blood infections (sepsis)
  • Drug-resistant infections (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA)
  • Serious injury (car crash, burns)

Patients may go to the ICU directly from the Emergency Department, or may be moved there from the general hospital ward if they become critically ill.

Staffing in the unit includes doctors, specialty nurses, speech therapists, dieticians, and physiotherapists (physical therapists). They provide the patients round-the-clock care. Depending on the patient’s issues, there’s usually one registered nurse (RN) assigned every two patients to one RN per patient. 

Because of this environment, medical equipment and devices like computers are specialized. The best medical computers for the intensive care unit should have the following features:

  • Certified Medical Grade
  • Antimicrobial
  • Fanless Design
  • IP65 Rated
  • Industrial Grade
  • Manufacturers Failure Rates

Why Medical PCs Should be Medical Grade 

There are many electronics and medical devices found in ICU. Patient visitors can expect to see:

  • Monitoring systems for heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate
  • Hospital or ICU ventilators  to assist breathing through an endotracheal tube or a tracheostomy tube
  • Temperature management system
  • Electrocardiogram machine
  • Cardiac ultrasound
  • Portable X-ray
  • Blood flow meter
  • Pulse oximeter
  • Blood gas analyzer
  • Dialysis machine
  • Cardiac output measurement system
  • Catheters and intravenous (IV) lines for fluids and medications

These devices are vital for the patient’s survival. Medical computers in the unit, used mainly for electronic health record usage, patient monitoring software, or both, should be medical grade. This means, as discussed in our article, Medical Grade Vs Hospital Grade, it has been tested for hazards like fire, ignition from flammable anesthetics, electrical shock, mechanical impact, excessive electrical energy output, and radiation. The computer has been certified that it won’t interfere with potentially nearby life-sustaining or saving medical devices like those found in the ICU. 

Any monitors in the unit, which were similarly discussed vs commercial ones, also should be medical grade monitors.

Clean Computer Means Safe Patient

The ICU must be kept as clean as possible to help prevent infections. The patients there are critically ill and could already be fighting another infection like pneumonia or COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control pushes for reducing hospital-acquired infections which it estimates causes 99,000 deaths a year alone. 

Antimicrobial Prevents Bacterial Growth on PC

Medical computers can be designed with antimicrobial properties. Some manufacturers put a coating on the surface of their PCs. It must be periodically reapplied. Other manufacturers mix the antimicrobial resin into the plastic itself. 

Both inhibit microbes from growing on the computer, protecting it. Computers whose casing are mixed with the resin need no further application except for standard hospital cleaning. This frees the ICU personnel who can focus more on their patients.    

Fanless Design Prevents Infection Spread, Promotes Sleep

Bacteria and other deadly pathogens can be blown about by the fans used to cool computer equipment. Computers best for intensive care should be fanless. They use other means like heat sinks to keep their temperature down while preventing air-born infection. 

This fanless design also has another benefit. Patients in the ICU need to rest with many asleep much of the time. Fanless computers, lacking the whirling blades of fanned computers, are completely silent and won’t disturb them.  

IP65 Rated Keep Computer Sealed and Safe

Medical staff spend a lot of time keeping the hospital clean. Hours are spent from wiping down surfaces to spaying disinfectants into the air. Many of the cleaning products used can be damaging to the delicate interiors of electronics like medical monitors. To prevent this, computers used in the ICU should be IP65 rated. This means they’re sealed from particulates, dust, and from direct jets of water. This allows them to be cleaned more often, more thoroughly, and by harsher disinfectants. The flat front bezel means fewer nooks and crevices for infectious matter to hide in, too. 

Long-Term Computer Hardware Survivability

Medical devices and equipment in the ICU have to be reliable. A glitch in the many systems no matter how temporary can be a life-or-death matter for a patient.

When equipping the unit with medical computers, the hospital should verify they’re made with industrial grade parts. These ensure they can withstand being active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for months on end. Such parts will also help certain configurations like medical tablets to continue to function even after being dropped for example. 

Hospitals should also ask to look over manufacturers’ failure rates of their products. These should be as low as possible. This adds peace of mind that the ICU patient is being both monitored and administered by the most trustworthy equipment possible no matter how long their stay. 

Other features that should be looked upon for an intensive care medical computer are legacy ports, which allow compatibility with older medical devices and equipment; and telemedicine capability. Called eICU, virtual ICU, or tele-ICU, this relatively new feature allows off-site providers and nurses to monitor ICU patients even from miles away. 

Closing Comments

The intensive care unit is used for critically ill patients who need round-the-clock monitoring and care. Medical devices and equipment need to function properly in this environment where even a brief failure can be a life-or death matter. Medical grade and fanless design are just a couple of features that should be on healthcare IT’s checklist for computers in the ICU. 

If your medical group or hospital wants help with such vital equipment, 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. 

Also follow Cybernet on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin to stay up to date on this and other relevant topics.