Hospitals, doctors’ surgeries and care homes are trusted to look after people in their most vulnerable state. As such, any medical facility has a responsibility to provide the best possible care while also keeping their patients safe. In addition to general health and safety practices, part of this process will include regular assessments and monitoring, which typically involves electronic equipment.
This electronic equipment may include blood pressure and heart rate monitors, defibrillators, and motorised beds. Everyday, almost 1 million patients visit an NHS healthcare facility, many of whom use equipment as part of their treatment.
These essential pieces of electronic equipment are vital to patient care, but they can also present a very real danger. Because of this, a medical establishment has a legal responsibility to complete tests to ensure the safety of healthcare equipment, and thus, their patients. Along with visual checks and PAT testing, this should include regular EMC testing.
What is EMC Testing?
Electromagnetic compatibility testing assesses the amount of electromagnetic energy that is released by a piece of equipment and how it affects the surrounding electromagnetic environment. While all electronic devices release electromagnetic energy, if the level of interference and energy emitted is too high, it could lead to disturbance and result in malfunction.
Essentially, the purpose of an EMC test is to make sure that a piece of equipment is emitting an appropriate level of electromagnetism, in order to function properly within its environment.
Why is it Needed?
When it comes to healthcare, it is important to carry out regular EMC tests. This is particularly important for two reasons: patient safety and equipment performance.
In terms of patient safety, medical equipment performs vital, life-saving functions. This means that any instance of equipment failure due to electromagnetism could cause equipment failure and lead to disastrous – and ultimately unavoidable – consequences.
Similarly, healthcare equipment must be able to function to a high standard. However, this can be affected by electromagnetism, resulting in equipment that is substandard or damaged. When this happens, equipment may provide inaccurate readings and measurements, which has the potential to lead to incorrect diagnosis or treatment.
EMC Testing Equipment
EMC testing was first introduced into British legislation in 1899. Known as ‘The Lighting Clauses Act’, it was created when it was found that electronic cables could interact. While the first EMC equipment was basic, it has been developed into highly sophisticated technology.
Nowadays, companies like MCS Testing Equipment offer numerous pieces of equipment. This includes analysers and receivers, which analyse frequencies to highlight EMC issues; impedance stabilisation networks, for immunity and emission tests; and specialist software for compliance.
Completing EMC Tests
While manufacturers must ensure they comply with electronic compatibility regulations when manufacturing, after an extended period of use, equipment can develop a fault that can result in higher electromagnetic emissions. As such, the equipment that was designed to help patients may stop functioning properly.
For this reason, medical equipment should be tested on a regular basis. This could be measured over a period of months or vary depending on how often it is used.
When completing EMC tests, it is important to seek a qualified technician or engineer, to ensure tests are carried out to the right standard. However, healthcare providers can purchase or hire EMC equipment as required, to allow regular tests to be completed.
Patient safety is about more than reducing human errors, providing correct medication, and maintaining clean premises to reduce the risk of infection. As an important part of patient care, healthcare providers must ensure that all medical equipment is performing to a high standard, as damaged equipment could compromise patient safety.
EMC testing can help to ensure that a piece of equipment is fully functional and safe to use. However, an EMC test alone is not enough and should be carried out in conjunction with regular visual checks, PAT tests and repairs.