Power quality in the medical sector

May 25, 2017 //By Steve Hughes
Power quality in the medical sector
You may have seen a lot more people checking in at A&E or taking selfies from their hospital bed recently. It’s not that all your Facebook friends have suddenly been under the weather, it’s just that hospital patients and visitors are now allowed to use mobile phones on site without fear of interfering with medical equipment.

However, hospitals still have a long way to go to reduce power quality issues. 

Power quality problems can be just as severe in medical environments as they are in industrial ones. For example, MRI scanners emit large amounts of electromagnetic radiation, so care must be taken around them. Patients must remove jewellery before entering the scanner and hospitals must use radiofrequency (RF) shielding to prevent electromagnetic radiation from causing interference in nearby medical devices.

Hospitals in the UK typically follow procedures to reduce the interference caused by medical equipment and comply with regulations such as EN60601, a European standard that outlines the basic requirements for medical electrical equipment in hospitals. This standard covers the safety, essential performance and electromagnetic compatibility of such equipment. However, despite the care taken over medical equipment, non-medical equipment typically causes the most electrical interference problems.

Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment is often used in hospitals alongside medical equipment. This equipment, such as commercial PCs, can result in electrical interference and subsequently have serious effects on medical equipment functionality. For example, there have been reports of cases where critical medical equipment such as defibrillators failed to work because of interference from secondary equipment, such as ambulance radios.

The rise in portable and handheld devices used to monitor patient vitals increases the number of devices in hospitals and, with more devices used, the risk of electrical interference rises. Such devices are susceptible to changes in power quality, which affects the quality of data received.

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