Providing Safe and Compliant Power to Patient Care Spaces

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As technology continues to advance, the need for power in health care facilities continues to increase. To ensure safe and reliable electrical connections in patient care spaces, a standard, store-bought power strip is not sufficient – health care facilities must use medical-grade power strips.

These strips are often mounted to moveable pieces of equipment, such as a medical cart. This provides flexibility for users as they can move equipment based on where it is needed most and provides an extra layer of safety as it removes the excess cords on the floor. 

What makes a power strip “medical-grade”?

Medical-grade power strips provide safer and more reliable electrical connections. For a power strip to qualify as “medical-grade,” it must feature hospital-grade plugs and receptacles. Hospital-grade devices incorporate additional construction features and are subjected to more stringent performance requirements than standard plugs and receptacles.

The hospital-grade plugs must be covered by a device, only removable by a special tool. The enclosure leakage current cannot exceed 0.1 mA in normal conditions, and the strip cannot have a manual ON/OFF switch. This increases patient safety as users cannot accidentally turn off a critical machine plugged in. Medical-grade power strips must be permanently mounted to a piece of moveable equipment, such as a cart or IV pole. Finally, the strips must be used with medical equipment inside Patient Care Spaces and conform to Safety Standard UL 60601-1 or UL 1363A.

What is a patient care space?

Now that we understand what a medical-grade power strip is, we can define the spaces that they should be used in. As defined in NEC 2020 Article 517, a patient care space is any area of a health care facility where patients are examined or treated. This includes:

  • Critical Care (Category 1) Space  ̶  a space in which failure of equipment or a system is likely to cause major injury or death of patients, staff, or visitors (i.e. intensive care rooms, operating rooms, delivery rooms, trauma rooms).
  • General Care (Category 2) Space  ̶  a space in which failure of equipment or a system is likely to cause minor injury to patients, staff, or visitors (i.e. inpatient bedrooms, dialysis rooms, procedural rooms).
  • Basic Care (Category 3) Space  ̶  a space in which failure of equipment or a system is not likely to cause injury to the patients, staff, or visitors but can cause patient discomfort (i.e. exam/treatment rooms in clinics, dental offices, nursing homes).
A patient care vicinity is a space within a location for examination and treatment of patients, extending 6 feet (1.8 m) beyond the location of the bed, chair, table, or treadmill and extending vertically 7.5 feet (2.3 m) above the floor. Medical-grade power strips must be used within patient care facilities and patient care vicinities.

How to remain compliant in patient care spaces?

To ensure optimal patient safety, organizations such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and The Joint Commission provide surveys for health care facilities on an annual or bi-annual basis. They inspect facilities to standards in the NFPA 99: Health Care Facilities Code.

A pressing requirement of the NFPA 99, located in Article, states: “The sum of the ampacity of all appliances connected to the outlets does not exceed 75 percent of the ampacity of the flexible cord supplying the outlets.”

In-patient care spaces, different devices are plugged into medical-grade power strips, including heart monitors, oxygen pumps, fluid heaters, and other vital machines. Some devices draw far higher amperages than others. Because of that draw differential, it can be difficult for facilities to remain compliant with this portion of the NFPA 99.

Leviton has recently launched a new medical-grade power strip with load monitoring Inform technology that alleviates this burden on facilities. This new device features a real-time, line-of-sight LED indication when the NFPA 99 load limit of 75 percent has been reached. This is a simple, efficient, and convenient way to improve code compliance and electrical safety in health care facilities. By alerting the end-user that the device has reached 75 percent, it decreases the chances for an overload, increasing patient safety.

Medical-Grade Power Strips

The opinions expressed in this piece are solely Leviton's. They do not necessarily represent WESCO’s views.