Medical device manufacturers create a variety of tools and instruments that make vital procedures possible: anything from endoscopes to X-ray machines. In many cases, a tablet is required to act in conjunction with their device, serving as the means of control the device, capture data or display video feeds.
That usually requires hardware beyond just an out-of-the-box commercial grade tablet, which often lacks the features necessary to work with medical devices. Medical grade tablets provide a much better option for manufacturers interested in smooth integration and optimal performance. It is important to understand what features differentiate a medical tablet from a commercial grade tablet, and why those features matter. Here are four things to look for when deciding on the best tablet.
Medical devices must work in close proximity to patients. Many need to function in an OR environment, with a number of different devices all functioning at one time, and in the case of some devices (such as an endoscope), they must be inserted directly into the patient’s body. Imagine if an integrated tablet has a power surge while a medical device was inserted in a patient, or if the electromagnetic discharge of that device interfered with something like a heart monitor. The results could be catastrophic.
The right medical tablet PC will carry the proper certifications to avoid such issues. More specifically, they will be IEC/UL 60601-1 certified for near-patient use, allowing the tablet to work in conjunction with your device. That means it won’t create problems during a sensitive operation requiring multiple pieces of machinery and can be used safely with bedside devices such as mechanical ventilators.
Also look for IP65 certification, indicating that the tablet is protected from exposure to liquid. That allows it to be cleaned properly without disrupting its functionality: keeping it sterile as easily as the medical device to which it is attached, and eliminating any potential health risk to the patient. It also means that it can function safely in an operating room or similar environment, where liquids like saline solutions are common and can create problems for tablets without such protection.
Medical devices can oftentimes require an embedded device with a lot of processing power. Depending upon the device they are linked to, their duties can include running software applications swiftly and efficiently, providing video capture features for clear and accurate images of the patient’s condition, and allowing swift access to associated electronic medical records (EMRs) for comparison purposes. An underpowered tablet or one designed for personal use simply won’t be able to hold up under the strain.
Medical tablet computers, on the other hand, have the ability to meet those tough demands. Depending on the application, a device manufacturer might need to find a tablet with a powerful processor, expandable RAM or even a large hard drive (as much as 128 GB) to provide instant video feedback, run multiple applications at the same time or store multiple images or videos.
Different devices have different ports, and not all of them can connect to your average out-of-the-box tablet. Basic interface between a tablet and a medical device can quickly dissolve into a nightmare of crossover cables and adapters… and in some cases may not be able to connect to your device at all.
The answer lies in customization: the ability to integrate any port required in the tablet’s design. Not only does that ensure that the port connections are exactly what your product needs, but if you ever need to change the ports or add new ones onto your design, you can still rely on the same tablet to meet those changing needs. (Customization also provides ports for legacy devices and similar equipment that may still be working perfectly well but lack an updated connection to connect to more modern machines. That in turn, helps improve your product’s longevity and utility over time.)
Speaking of longevity, you may have noticed how often electronics manufacturers are coming out with new models. Technology advances in leaps and bounds, and commercial-grade tablets thrive on releasing new models on a regular basis. It makes sense from a business perspective – witness the infamous long lines at Apple stores whenever a new iPad is released – but it simply won’t do when it comes to medical devices. Every time new hardware shows up, your device needs to be re-certified, re-tested and often upgraded. And if that USB connection port moves from the right side to the left side, that might mean needing to redesign an entire device just to accommodate a small change in the embedded tablet design. This can be extremely time consuming and costly for a device manufacturer. By the time a device is certified, the commercial grade tablet they’ve selected might not even be available anymore.
A medical tablet built for a long lifecycle, on the other hand, eliminates the problems of frequent upgrades. That means less time spent on integrating new systems, re-certification and similar steps. Look for tablets with 3-5 year lifecycles, as well as quality warranties, customer phone support and similar features.
Cybernet Manufacturing produces a line of medically certified medical tablets that meet the high demands of medical device manufacturers. If you need tablets with the right features to work alongside your devices, contact us today to hear more.