Introduction: Batteries in Medical Equipment
Various types of batteries are used in medical equipment. With its long life and high energy density, lithium batteries are the favored choice as both a primary source of energy in implanted and portable devices, and as a back-up in others. Equipment that use batteries can range from monitors and tools like surgical drills and robots, to critical devices such as defibrillators, transport ventilators, heart-lung machines and more.
According to an FDA survey, 50% of issues in hospitals are battery related; equipment malfunctions and failures because batteries are not in good condition. Since these are mission-critical situations, batteries found in medical equipment are routinely switched out, even while they are still usable. As much as this practice reduces the risk of failure in critical moments, a lot of batteries go to waste. Comprehensive testing and accessible maintenance information is needed to reduce wastage while still ensuring that it will work when the time comes.
Why are batteries going to waste?
In order to ensure the dependability of devices with minimal maintenance, reliability-centered maintenance strategies are often used in the medical field. The goal of this approach is to preserve the functioning of the system and lower operational costs by reducing the need for invasive maintenance. This is accomplished by removing, changing, or upgrading the variables within a system before it can cause a failure. Cables, plugs, wires, batteries and other non-durable components of a device are changed regularly, even if they are still in good working condition.
According to biomedical and clinical technicians, most batteries are switched out every 2-3 years and according to the date stamps provided by manufacturers, even though lithium batteries are typically designed to last 5 years or more. This is done as a safety precaution, but date stamping is not extremely accurate. With the possibility that batteries remain in storage before being used, most batteries are not used to the fullness of their potential before the expiration date. Although reliability is of the utmost importance in this field, reducing battery wastage is also an issue biomedical technicians and health care providers are seeking to address.
What is lacking?
Predicting battery life is extremely challenging given that many factors affect a battery’s health over time. Manufacturers cannot completely predict how a battery would be used or misused. One person from the FDA expressed that manufacturers need to anticipate how these batteries and devices will be handled by the end-users, and not necessarily how they are ideally intended to be used.
Challenges and situations that may arise during use need to be factored into anticipating the wear-and-tear that the battery may face. With this information, better predictions on battery health and life can be made.
Another issue that is often pointed out by biomedical and clinical technicians is the lack of clear maintenance instructions available. This makes it difficult for technicians to know how best to manage and take care of the battery in order to make the best use out of it.
What can be done
In order for manufacturers to better provide accurate information to device users, more precise testing must be done on batteries in order to better understand them. High precision and high resolution equipment will allow manufacturers to see better how different factors and situations affect a battery. While testing the batteries as if they are being used and handled in day-to-day procedures, high resolution equipment will catch even the smallest changes, allowing manufacturers to better predict battery life and what would affect it. This would also make date stamping more accurate and reliable.
According to hospital biomedical and clinical engineers, some of the most common problems with battery devices include overcharging, undercharging, and incorrect replacement. Thus, having software that allows you to be flexible and customizable with tests profiles will also help to simulate real-life situations and how the battery might be used. This would help manufacturers anticipate the damage that could be done to the battery. All this information would then assist manufacturers in confidently providing more comprehensive information and clearer maintenance instructions for users.
Battery manufacturers are often apprehensive about developing batteries for medical equipment due to concerns over liability. However, with the right test equipment, these concerns can be minimized. With accurate and precise hardware it would be easier for manufacturers to predict battery life as well as inform users how best to extend it. In this way, batteries can be ready to handle any emergency situation and battery wastage can be reduced.