What is a Medical Power Supply?

Christina Whyte
Christina Whyte

A medical power supply is a source of energy that has certain characteristics above and beyond a regular power supply to meet the standards necessary for hospital and other medical facility use. Medical power supplies generally need to meet higher safety standards and have lower electromagnetic interference than other types of power supplies. International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standard 60601-1 gives guidelines for power supplies used in medical settings. These are more stringent than for power supplies used in regular commercial or industrial settings.

Patient and staff safety are the top considerations in medical power supply standards. Leakage current, the unintentional and potentially harmful electric current that leaks from power supplies, may be more harmful to patients who are already weak and sick compared to healthy people, so it is important that this is minimized. This is especially an issue for power supplies that are used in close proximity to patients. Protection from electric shock is also crucial for medical power supplies and all electronics.

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) is another consideration in medical settings because of the large number of machines that can be affected by it and the potentially devastating consequences of machine failure. Many types of medical equipment operate using low-level frequencies that are more easily disrupted by interference. A medical power supply needs to strike a good balance between protecting against EMI and minimizing leakage current. This can be difficult, because power supply filters tend to generate a greater amount of leakage current as they become more efficient at blocking EMI.

Most medical power supplies are used in busy areas with a large number of different machines and devices to power. Medical power supplies, therefore, need to be adaptable and compatible with all of the various devices used in medical settings, from specialized surgical equipment to regular laptop computers. Many machines used in medical settings are portable, meaning a mobile power supply is needed. The general rule is the smaller and lighter the better.

Cost considerations don't necessarily play a role in industry standards, but it is important when choosing a medical power supply. Cheaper is not always better, particularly when the power supply is needed to power a crucial piece of medical equipment. The cost of a medical power supply failure must be weighed against the financial cost of the equipment. Environmental considerations are also becoming more important. This is part of an attempt to reduce the impact on the environment caused by medical facilities and to reduce the energy costs to a particular facility by choosing an energy-efficient power supply.

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