Medical weight scales are one of those pieces of essential medical equipment which are so ubiquitous that they are often simply taken for granted in many clinical settings. Yet failure to pay close attention to their characteristics and properties can lead to everything from misdiagnoses to failure to detect symptoms altogether.
But what exactly are the essential aspects of medical scales that need to be considered when contemplating the purchase of new equipment of this type? The answers to that question may surprise you.
Principle Concerns in Medical Weighing
If asked, most healthcare facility purchasing managers would probably identify miscalibration and basic weight measuring inaccuracy as the main factor to be considered when evaluating medical scales for purchase and use in their clinics. And while that is certainly a vital component to factor into any scale's quality assessment, it's really just the beginning.
When it comes to the practical considerations that must be met in-order for a scale to be up to the demands of a modern medical facility, there are really four main factors to be aware of:
The risk of falls – Many patients in the clinical environment are elderly, or persons with limited and impaired mobility. They may even be taking medications that compromise their ability to remain steady on their feet and maintain their balance. This can result in patients falling while attempting to access the weighing device – which poses a risk not just to them, but to clinical staff as well. Medical scales have now been developed that address this concern and are designed to minimize such hazards. The new designs incorporate very low platforms along with “live” railing that allows patients to hold themselves stable while still being accurately weighed. The wider platforms now offered also enable patients to find just the right position that allows them to be both comfortable and secure – thus protecting themselves – and staff who may be injured in attempting to stop them from falling.
Accuracy concerns with higher or lower weights – Physicians regularly prescribe medications based on patient weights. Unfortunately, many medical scales lose accuracy as loads increase, which comes at a time when healthcare centers are treating increased numbers of obese and overweight patients. In-fact, The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority has documented a large number of medication errors stemming from incorrect scale readings on high weight patients. Medication errors have also been cited with babies. Attention to correct calibrations - whether in pounds or kilograms - and measures as simple as ensuring scales are set to zero before each use are helping to reduce the danger of this problem.
Controlling infections – As the danger of contracting infections in hospitals continues to be a concern for clinical staff, medical scale manufacturers have begun to address the hazard posed by multiple uses of potentially contagious patients by using silver-based antimicrobial materials in handrails and other high contact areas. This – along with antimicrobial powder coatings – is helping medical facilities to reduce cross contamination during weighing procedures with medical scales.
Importance of standardization – With patients often being weighed multiple times in different treatment rooms, using different types of scales has often resulted in different results. Many healthcare centers are now moving toward Integrated Delivery Networks, and are greatly aided by employing standard scales and calibration methods to help ensure consistency throughout the clinical environment.
This blog was written based on a white paper provided by Health-O-Meter, a leading manufacturer of scales. Each of these elements of evaluating and using medical weighing techniques is simply another way in which scales play an important role in modern clinical situations. At CME, we have over thirty years of experience in delivering the highest quality equipment to medical professionals. Please contact one of our equipment experts at (800) 338-2372 with any questions.