Ever noticed how doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel have just the right meds or piece of equipment for patients at a moment’s notice? They don’t simply disappear for even a minute to get, for example, an aspirin for a patient complaining of a headache. Instead they bring the pain reliever and cup of water within seconds of the request.

This “magic trick” is through medical carts. An important tool in today’s healthcare, medical carts make access to important drugs and vital equipment within easy reach of the staff. We go into detail about these medical carts, from what they do, different kinds like non-powered and powered medical carts, and how they’re built to be useful in the essential care of patients.

What Are Medical Carts?

Medical carts are simply mobile storage units. They play a vital role in healthcare. Healthcare facilities like clinics and hospitals use medical carts to store and transport medicines, medical supplies, and emergency equipment. They are indispensable, aiding providers and other medical staff in providing efficient patient care

Different Kinds of Medical Carts

A medical equipment cart gives providers, medical personnel, and caregivers immediate access to a patient’s medications and other supplies. 

Two elements allow medical carts to do this. The first is mobility, since medical carts are lightweight and wheeled. This makes it easy for them for staff to bring where they need it and when. 

The second is their customization. There’s a medical cart specialized for almost any need and want in healthcare. This is especially true for hospitals. Some of the most well-known ones include:

Anesthesia Carts

These medical rolling carts are used by the anesthesiology department to organize and store tools that are necessary to aid providers and their support staff to obtain the exact drug needed when they need it. Due to the potentially lethal medications and narcotics used in the medical specialty, many anesthesia carts have multiple security and tracking mechanisms. 

Bedside Carts

These carts allow providers and support medical personnel to directly care for patients at their side. Common medications like non-prescription pain relief, for example, may be found in most bedside carts. Same with sterile gloves, band aids, etc. This saves on extra trips to the supply cabinet or nursing station

Many bedside carts can also transport medical computers in a similar fashion as a workstation on wheels. This allows staff like nurses to update the patient’s electronic medical records (EMR) at their bedside.  

Crash carts

These are probably the most well-known medical carts. Crash carts, also called “code carts”, house any necessary medication and equipment to deal with life-threatening emergencies like a myocardial infarction aka heart attack. A defibrillator, cardiac drugs, and endotracheal intubation medical devices are just some of the vital pieces of equipment found in typical crash carts.

Medication Carts

These medical rolling carts come with many storage areas to house regularly used medications for a particular department like a hospital ICU. Again, this saves on trips to storage facilities, the nursing station, or the on-site hospital pharmacy. Many medication carts have features like self-locking drawers to keep their contents as secure as possible. 

Point of Care (POC) Carts

Providers and other medical professionals roll out these carts to a patient’s side for any diagnostic testing. The various storage units on the cart house the medical test materials while providing containers for blood samples and the like to be transported to the hospital lab. Similar to bedside carts, POC carts can be equipped with a medical computer to make updating the patient’s EMR a breeze. Medical computers hot-swappable batteries are especially ideal for POC carts with no battery packs to power any necessary equipment like barcode scanners.   

Treatment Carts

Treatment carts have been especially designed to transport biohazard, contagious, and similar hazardous waste products safely through a hospital to the proper disposal facilities. 

Other medical carts include isolation carts, IV carts, and transfer carts. 

What Makes Up a Medical Cart

Medical carts are highly specialized for healthcare facilities. One cannot simply go to the local supply store to purchase them. They have distinct characteristics including:

Lightweight to allow easy movement throughout the facility or ward while strong enough to deal with daily accidental bumps and scrapes. Each cart should be collapse-resistant to prevent damage to equipment and medical supplies. Carts should also pass impact testing to ensure they can withstand both accidents and general wear and tear. Shelves and drawers must be durable enough to tolerate constant use and product weights. Wheels must swivel and move as intended under load and should include a locking and braking system. A proper venting system should be in place to avoid overheating of medications or electronic medical devices. Manufacturers must ensure the locks on their carts are tamper resistant to prevent unauthorized persons from accessing medication and hazardous materials.

To meet these requirements, medical carts are available in a variety of materials: 

  • Medical grade PVC Plastic
  • Mild Steel
  • Poly-Aluminum 
  • Stainless steel 
  • Wood laminate

Many medical carts are medical grade. More formally known as 60601-1 compliant, medical grade means the medical device has met the highest requirements available for safety (Safety 60601-1) and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC 60601-1-2) in medical settings like hospitals. It has been tested and certified to be safe near patients. They will not interfere with potentially life-sustaining or saving nearby medical devices, nor cause hazards like a fire, electrical shocks, or excessive radiation. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers many hospital carts to be medical devices if they fall under section 201(h) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The above anesthesia cart, for example, is most likely battery powered and has a potential ignition of flammable anesthesia gas if not medical grade. This is the same with a crash cart. The latter, however, would be medical grade since it’ll be equipped with conductive wheels to collect and return any static electricity generated while the cart’s moving across the floor. This shields the vital electronics within the cart.   

Closing Comment

Medical carts form a vital part of many medical facilities ecosystems as they provide any and all necessary tools and medications within easy reach to medical personnel. Many medical carts are built for the healthcare industry which includes specialization to departments and wards. 

Contact an expert at Cybernet if your healthcare group is looking for the right medical equipment optimized to work with your medical carts.

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