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Clinical, Medical vs. Commercial: A Complete Guide to the Best Computers in Healthcare

August 5, 2019

Medical Computer for Healthcare

When deciding which PC is best for us in the healthcare industry, it is important to thoroughly understand the advantages and disadvantages of the various categories of computers; clinical, medical, and commercial.

For the majority of cases, utilizing a medical or clinical computer is recommended for most healthcare environments as they incorporate a variety of features specific to the industry. Commercial computers are designed to serve the needs of as large a consumer base as possible, and therefore, they are not streamlined to match the precise requirements of the healthcare industry.

Why Medical or Clinical PC’s are Considered the Best Computers in Healthcare

There are a variety of specifications built into medical or clinical computers that are singular to the healthcare industry. The generality and need for broad market appeal within the commercial computer industry do not allow space for these features. Therefore, integrating a commercial computer into your practice will lead to reduced productivity and can also result in regulatory issues.

Below are the healthcare industry needs that can only be met through the use of clinical or medical computers.

Enhanced Image Quality

Precise medical imaging is a core requirement for the healthcare industry as the use of technologies such as x-ray, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, and computed tomography allow practitioners to map out and visualize a patient’s physical and functional attributes to determine proper diagnoses and treatments. Clear and consistent imaging is critical to this workflow and therefore, the imaging process must be undergone in as controlled an environment as possible.

Before the advent of digital imaging, the industry relied on hard-copy film, and the quality of medical photography was therefore controlled during the image exposure and development stages. However, in the digital age, image quality is dependent on the machine itself, and proper review of those images is dependent on display capability.

While many commercial computers do offer many of the capabilities and display power of medical or clinical computers, they lack the purpose-built solutions and enhancements such as wide viewing angle, longevity, luminance and image noise reduction; attributes that become critical in maintaining accuracy and effectiveness over an extended period of use.

Further, medical technicians require enhanced gamma correction and DICOM grayscale compliance features to optimally review medical imaging. These components can only be found in medical or clinical-grade displays. Without gamma correction capabilities, the differences between the linear representation of light intensities and the nonlinear responses of the human eye can result in errors in diagnoses and treatment determinations, as the eye is considerably more sensitive to low light situations than to equal variations of bright light. Similarly, grayscale compliance technology allows the computer to calibrate grayscale characteristics to ensure high fidelity image presentation regardless of any imaging modality or differentiation in the display device.

Certification for Near Patient Use

Computer use in the healthcare industry requires adherence to sets of regulations specific to the industry. Medical electrical equipment must pass stronger international standards and procedures than their commercial counterparts before they can be deemed appropriate for near-patient use. As technology evolves, so do these standards. Therefore it is legally required that medical practices integrate equipment that meets the current level of regulations.

The current crop of medical computers is IEC-60601 4th edition certified for near-patient use. In most cases, commercial computers do not meet these safety regulations.

Anti-Microbial Enclosures

When working in the healthcare, maintaining a clean environment is critical to reducing the purveyance and spread of infections. Medical and clinical-grade computers utilize anti-microbial enclosures which have proven an effective means for reducing bacteria by a considerable percentage by limiting the opportunity for bacteria spread between the device and the room in use. Maintaining a sanitized, bacteria-free space is not a consideration for commercial-grade computer designers. Therefore, these enclosures are only integrated into medical and clinical-grade units.

Further, medical and clinical computers are specifically designed to promote ease of cleaning and sanitizing through the use of chemicals. These chemicals will not damage or alter the performance of these computers, whereas the same may not be true for commercial units.

Clinical vs. Medical

While both clinical and medical computers both offer similar advantages when compared to commercial units, the two varieties offer nuanced specifications that are best suited for specific contexts within the healthcare industry.

Medical units are tailored for use near-patient and therefore have more certifications that allow the machine to work in tandem with other medical and non-medical equipment without harmful electromagnetic interference.

Clinical units, on the other hand, are best suited for imaging-based practices such as clinical offices, as these units do not require the same certification and still utilize the same enhanced imaging properties.

Ultimately, the decision between clinical or medical computers comes down to the context, specifications, and needs of the practice.

The Best Computers in Healthcare

For use within a large percentage of the healthcare environment, such as critical care, utilization of a medical or clinical computer is not only necessary for quality and efficiency but is also legally required due to healthcare regulations. Commercial units, while in some cases lower in cost, will not be able to meet the regulations of the industry, nor will they have the ability to meet imaging, sanitary and performance requirements.

By investing in proper medical or clinical units, your practice is making the necessary steps to ensure proper deliverance of care to your patients and optimal integration of modern technological advantages, efficiencies, and regulations.

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