Systems care, entertain and protect

Tom Shelley reports on what can now be done with bedside electronics without risking infection.

Embedded electronic technology within patient bedside terminals can provide medical information and entertainment while resisting the spread of possible infection.

Other products have been developed that enable the safer and more convenient handling of computers, allowing them to be safely moved around and used in the most ergonomic manners, while again resisting infection.
The developments come from two small companies in Surrey, Bytec and JAOtech, whose principals used to work for companies that supplied the military, but which now work closely together in the UK health market with separate facilities they both own in Taiwan.

One of the most important features of the bedside terminals is the keyboards, developed by Bytec but available exclusively for terminals supplied by JAOtech. Bytec CEO Bernard Mifsud explained that the crucial difference between it and other membrane keyboards is that no creases form when keys are depressed. This can be verified by dusting with talcum powder, cleaning it with alcohol wipes and seeing whether any powder remains. In addition, the keyboard monitors its own use and will, from time to time, illuminate a light that asks that the keyboard be disinfected. It then monitors which keys have been pressed. If all the keys have been pressed, which is presumed to indicate that the whole keyboard has been disinfected, the light goes out.

In addition, the plastic incorporates a silver ion based anti-microbial called 'Biomaster', and Bytec supplies a special laser pen that produces a green spot on a substrate only if a security additive which is added to the anti-microbial is present. The device forms part of Bytec's quality control and is also available to end customers who wish to make their own checks. The keyboard uses a wireless USB 2.4GHz connection to the computer terminal and recharges from a docking station that slots in firmly without leaving gaps.

The flat screen that contains the terminal electronics has been developed by JAOtech. As well incorporating the anti-microbial 'Novaron', made by Toagosei, the device is fanless, with speakers in its rear, all electrical connections underneath, and every effort made to round off corners to avoid dirt traps. The cast aluminium support arm acts as a thermal bridge to assist heat removal. Microphones built into the screen can identify ultrasonic tags and a new range, being launched in November 2010, will use capacitative sensing keys instead of membrane buttons. CEO Warren Kressinger-Dunn explained that JAOtech works with system integrators, adding that: "Every hospital wants something different." The general idea is to make the terminals multi-purpose, so they allow access to patient medical records for the benefit of doctors and patients, equipped in at least some cases with bar code scanners to ensure the information is associated with the right patient. At the same time, entertainment services that may be free or charged for can be offered.

Bytec, as well as producing the Medi-Key keyboards for the patient terminals, makes a device called a 'Smart-Cart', to support, transport and protect computers and other high tech items.

This has lead acid batteries in its base which aid stability and power a motor driven lifting mechanism. This allows the user to have the equipment with which they are working at optimum height. Mifsud says it could have used gas struts, but these would have had to be tailored to what was on it. Two-hand operation with a button on each side prevents inadvertent operation or operation by children. The same company has also developed a non-motorised stand on wheels, called 'Medi-Stand', which incorporates an extruded aluminium pillar so that cables can be run inside it under a cover, instead of acting as dirt traps by being tied onto the outside of legs. It has a concave base so that blood or other fluids resulting from use of what the stand may be carrying, cannot run down the base onto the floor and get onto the wheels.

Tom Shelley

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