Types of Medical Carts
“Medical supply carts” can be a catch-all phrase that may encompass many types of medical carts, each delivering unique functions to optimize specific workflows. According to Market Watch, the medical cart market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13 percent by 2024.
Today, healthcare facilities have plenty of options when purchasing carts to either augment their existing inventory or replacing outdated or damaged carts. They can often customize carts to fit their needs, choosing the right size and configurations, embedding technology, and integrating modern security features. While medical supply carts run the gamut, the following are the most common:
Medication carts provide safe, secure storage of medications and enable nurses to move them from patient room to patient room, eliminating the need for them to retrieve patient medications from the centralized medication rooms or the hospital pharmacy. A locking mechanism and/or embedded software provides electronic user access, ensuring only authorized nurses are able to access the medications that doctors prescribed to their specific patient. There is much less risk for medications making into the wrong hands, being administered to the wrong patient, or being wasted.
Medical supply carts keep medical supplies throughout the hospital organized and mobile to optimize efficiencies. Staff from the centralized supply room typically fill the medical supply carts with items specific to who will be using them. The carts may contain everything from gauze and syringes to blankets and IV tubing. Because the carts are mobile, supplies are readily available to physicians and nurses without them having to retrieve these supplies from another location. This enables more responsive patient care which can lead to better patient outcomes. The supply carts have also been known to help hospitals reduce medical supply expenditures and waste.
Transfer carts can have multiple uses. Many healthcare facilities use them to move supplies, medications or equipment from one area of the hospital to another. Most often, they are used to exchange medications from the central pharmacy to the patient care unit’s medication room, medication carts, or point-of-care medication cabinets located inside of patient rooms. The pharmacy loads the transfer cart with the medications intended for nurses to distribute to patients that day, then pharmacy technicians will roll them to each patient floor. This ensures the right medications are distributed to the right patient without nurses having to wait for the pharmacy.
The anesthesia cart is a variation of a
Hospital emergency rooms, urgent care facilities, and every patient floor should have at least one crash cart in the event a patient’s life is on the line. These medical supply carts stock all of the items that may be required to prevent a patient from “crashing.” Defibrillators, intubation supplies, certain medications, and other life-saving items are well-organized and easy to access in the event of an emergency.
The hospital is often cited as the most dangerous place a person can be, in part because of the risk of infection. Healthcare facilities utilize isolation carts to reduce the risk for pathogens circulating around the hospital. The carts are typically placed in the most at-risk locations in the hospitals and contain personal protective items, such as gloves, masks, and gowns. Their design also enables them to be easily sanitized between uses.
Blood Center Carts
Blood center carts are a unique type of medical supply cart used by blood banks. They not only store all of the supplies needed to draw blood from a donor, but they also keep on board the various pieces of equipment that enable the blood center to travel to and from mobile donation drives. By having all of the blood drive items on the cart, staff are able to transport, set up and break down everything more quickly and easily.
Which Medical Supply Cart Should You Buy?
Medical supply carts are a staple in most hospitals, urgent care centers, and other healthcare facilities. Each type of cart may fill unique needs, making it challenging to determine which carts are best per environment. We’ve put together a quick cheat sheet of sorts to guide buyers to the best medical supply cart for their specific workflows. While every cart is different, keep in mind that the best solution is likely a combination of several types of carts.
1. Assess The Environment
Before you can confidently purchase any medical supply cart, you should perform a thorough assessment of the healthcare environment. We highly recommend observing various workflows to get a good idea of how current solutions are working (or not) and where improvements can be made by introducing new or upgraded carts. Keep security and medication management in mind.
After observation, talk with the stakeholders. This likely will include nurse staff, physicians, anesthesiologists, pharmacy staff, and those responsible for stocking supplies. Ask them what they would need to be able to do their jobs more efficiently and safely. If they could design a cart that would make them more productive, what would it look like? If they are already utilizing a medical cart, what would they change about it to make it better?
Finally, evaluate which types of medical carts are needed where. For instance, pharmacy staff may need upgraded transfer carts while physicians may require modern anesthesia carts in surgical rooms.
2. Determine The Budget
Every healthcare facility operates under a strict budget. If budget has already been allocated for medical supplies and equipment, medical carts may fall under that allocation. If not, it is important to include these items in the next budget planning cycle as a way for improving medication management and efficiencies, while reducing risk and nurse workloads.
Medical supply carts are relatively inexpensive compared with many of the more sophisticated technologies used throughout the hospital and they offer plenty of benefits. Hospitals who leverage the right mix of medical supply carts see improvements in efficiencies, safety, security, and productivity.
3. Partner with A Provider to Choose The Right Carts
There are multiple medical supply cart vendors in the industry, but it is important to find one who will partner with you to find the right mix of products that fit your specific needs. Be sure the manufacturer you select takes the time to learn about your facility’s workflows, budgets, and requirements before they recommend any products.
They should also be able to work within your budget and give you the ability to custom-configure your medical supply carts. You took the time to discover what each stakeholder needs to do their job more effectively, so don’t settle for any one-size-fits-all cart that may not deliver.
Related: 5 Ways MedKey Software Reduces Risk
Finally, look at the technology available. Carts are essentially metal boxes on wheels, but if they are intelligently designed and have the ability to be equipped with modern technology, they will become a valued asset to your organization by greatly reducing risk. Ask what kind of locking mechanisms are available and software that will improve medication management.