A tablet is the perfect go-to for both the brains and user interface for a medical device: they’re slim, surprisingly powerful, easy to use, and simple to integrate into any given mount.

However, grabbing the newest iPad or Tab and slapping it onto a machine may not be the hassle-free time-saver it seems at first blush.

A host of problems, both big and small, could possibly be averted by ditching the consumer tablet and looking at just what a medical tablet has to offer.

So, what can go wrong with a consumer tablet, anyway?

Why We Need IEC 60601-1 Certification

Modern medical tablets and computers are certified for ratings like IEC 60601-1 and UL 60601 (or both), depending on region. These certifications are primarily put in place to not only determine what kind of equipment can be used for what area and purpose, but also to protect the patient and doctors in general.

Any energized equipment — ie, anything with power — is potentially dangerous. Electrical devices can overload, short out, spark, heat up, and catch fire, which is bad enough in any normal situation. Now attach such a thing to a human body, often in an enclosed space like a hospital full of hundreds (or thousands) of other tightly-packed, injured/diseased human bodies, and you have a recipe for tragedy.

In a similar vein, energized equipment often produces radiation. This radiation isn’t “turn into a giant green superhero radiation” (most of the time), but is instead more likely radio or electromagnetic radiation caused by power fields. This radiation is everywhere, all around us, and is mostly harmless at low levels. However, when overlapping fields of EM radiation begin to affect sensitive electronics (like, say, a dialysis machine), then patients can truly be in very real danger.

IEC 60601, and other international or regional equivalents, come with a wide array of standards beyond these two. These standards govern situations like equipment working in oxygen-rich environments, how easy they are to disinfect, can equipment be mounted sturdily, how much humidity can be resisted, and other important performance factors.

However, in general, patient protection for electricity and radiation are two of the most common and most important factors for a medical tablet or medical computer. Protections which, unfortunately, most consumer tablets simply don’t possess.

Medical Tablets are Important Outside of Hospitals, Too

IEC 60601 ratings were first created and deployed in 1977 by the International Electrotechnical Commission and have been updated and republished in different versions to keep up with emergent technology.

As the rules (which are currently at their 4th iteration) are updated, risks have been reassessed. So, even medical devices that are used primarily in places like nursing homes, physical therapy offices, and even at-home or hospice care are still subject to many of the same laws and regulations as medical devices in a hospital.

This means that even a tablet for a senior care smart bed or blood pressure monitor must still be 60601 certified. Going into production with a consumer-grade tablet as the interface could end up costing a surprising amount of time and money in the long run if the devices have to ultimately be swapped out with medical tablets to fit regulations and maximize market penetration.

Juggling Operating Systems

Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons for avoiding consumer tablets is their operating systems. Be it Android, iOS, or Chromium, consumer tablets aren’t terribly customizable. They’re often locked-in and proprietary, a closed or at least difficult-to-open environment that isn’t always compatible with other hospital devices.

By contrast, most modern medical grade tablets either run off Windows software or can be easily configured for Linux, which is especially useful for a number of open-source and custom applications (the kind most often slotted into specific medical devices).

A Windows medical tablet is useful because it’s so compatible with existing hospital systems. A vast majority of hospital desktops and laptops are Windows PCs, making a Windows medical tablet an extremely efficient choice. Not only does this save staff from having to learn a new workflow, but it’s also easier to manage for the IT department.

The Benefits of a Purpose-Built Medical Tablet

Medical tablets aren’t just safer than consumer tablets: they’re designed from the ground up to work in any medical environment.

Operating rooms, for instance, have incredibly harsh standards for what can pass through their doors. A consumer tablet attached to an important medical device will likely be barred from such high-safety locations.

For instance, medical tablets are IP65 certified, which means the unit offers superior protection from jets of water and total protection from the ingress of dust and other particles. The importance of the water-resistance is not only to protect the device from errant sprays, but to make it easy to clean with standard hospital cleansers. The dust ingression protection keeps bacteria and allergens from riding inside the computer and multiplying, as well as generally making the tablet last longer.

Building Tablets into Medical Devices

While a standard tablet may seem like an economical, or at least hassle-free, choice for running a medical device, the truth is much simpler. Apple iPads definitely aren’t significantly less expensive than professional grade medical tablets, and cheap Android tablets simply don’t have the processing power or durability for long-term use.

Plus, the IP65 ratings, IEC certifications, military-grade parts, often hot-swappable batteries, and built-in RFID and barcode scanners put medical tablet PCs leagues above the competition.

For more about integrating medical panel PCs and medical tablets with medical devices, contact Cybernet today.