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AAMI takes action on medical cart fires

Accreditation Insider, July 25, 2017

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Last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a report warning that mobile medical carts have been overheating, igniting, smoking, burning, or exploding. This July, the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) responded by convening a group of experts to talk about this new fire hazard.

Similar to the infamous Samsung Galaxy 8, the fires are caused by carts’ lithium batteries and are extremely hard to extinguish. In some cases, firefighters have had to bury medical carts to put out the flames.

 “Surely, we’re not going to wait until there’s a patient incident to do something,” said Ram Dhurjaty, president of Dhurjaty Electronics Consulting, during the AAMI meeting.

A 2016 FDA survey revealed that half of hospital respondents have experienced a cart battery or electrical-related problem during the previous two years. In response, the agency put out a letter to healthcare professionals about the dangers. 

“We’ve learned that for most medical cart fires, the products in question met all applicable battery safety standards, including cell-level, pack-level, and product-level standards, and we believe a majority of these were legitimate certified products,” Pete Segar, CEO of medical cart manufacturer Ergotron, told HFAP.  “There is good reason to believe that incidents of lithium battery fires will continue. We need to take action to reduce the likelihood of fires that could cause serious safety events in a healthcare setting.”

 “Current industry standards have not been adequate,” he continued. “Most likely because the failures are caused by low likelihood contamination or defects that are not present in the nominal designs tested during the certification process. Developing new standards would be influential in driving innovations that could have a major impact on improving safety.”

In response, the AAMI has created three priorities and work groups to help hospitals with this problem.

1.    “Conduct failure analyses for high-capacity batteries in the health care setting and develop a feedback loop with device and battery manufacturers so this information can be incorporated into future designs.”
2.    “Develop new or update existing battery design standards to reflect the best practices found in UL’s Safety Issues for Lithium-Ion Batteries, AdvaMed’s Successful Practices for Battery-Powered Medical Devices, and other published documents.”
3.    “Train health care technology management professionals about safe battery management practices.”

Those interested in joining AAMI’s workgroups should contact Joe Lewelling, AAMI’s vice president of emerging technologies and health IT, at jlewelling@aami.org.
 



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