Consumer-Grade vs. Hospital Grade: How to Ensure Your Healthcare Facility Meets a High Standard of Safety and Satisfaction

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Dan Nathan

By Dan Nathan, Vice President and General Manager, TeleHealth Services

With television no longer being exclusive to the domestic home, and a larger focus being placed on the patient experience and satisfcation, many healthcare facilities are able to provide a much more “home-like” experience. But this leaves them asking the question: Is a healthcare grade television set really necessary?

HD display prices have dropped considerably over the past few years, making it attractive to incorporate this technology into a large scale facility. But with cost variances often favoring the consumer models, it would be easy for decisions to be swayed to purchase a consumer set, over a healthcare grade set. Hospital grade televisions are designed with specific features that consumer TVs cannot offer, making them safer for the patient and easier for clinician use. Compared to consumer sets, healthcare televisions are engineered and constructed with a different end user in mind. Manufacturers design healthcare grade HDTV sets specifically for use in the hospital setting and to withstand heavy wear and tear and long operating hours.

Designed for Patient Safety

Healthcare grade televisions are developed specifically with the hospital and patient safety in mind. Sets must meet standards based on a product’s construction and safety performance set forth by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc to even be sold in the market. Features such as rounded corners, touch panel membrane buttons, and the removal of enclosures on non-vertical surfaces provide a much safer patient care environment. Grounded plugs, lower allowed levels of leakage, an all pole power switch decrease the likelihood of shock.. Signaling and nurse call controls used with audio and video products must also meet additional reliability and safety criteria, while consumers grade products have no such requirement.

Designed for Operational Efficiency

In addition to patient safety, healthcare grade televisions also provide operational features that make a hospital-wide deployment less labor intrusive. Cloning technology, universal pillow speaker interfaces, pillow speaker controls and front panel locking control functionality help ensure the hospital has an effective implementation. Most importantly, these sets have a warranty that covers hospital use, unlike consumer models. Some manufacturers even offer an on-site or exchange warranty, so if something does happen, patients are minimally impacted.

Designed for Patient Satisfaction
Clinicians want their patients to have a comforting experience, and patient satisfaction is of the utmost importance to many hospitals. Healthcare televisions aid in creating a more “home-like” atmosphere and experience as well as making a much more efficient workflow for clinicians. The pillow speaker interface all makes for an enjoyable patient experience by minimizing disturbances from other patients. Autosensing side inputs and dedicated input channels allow multiple sources of content from a variety of technologies to be displayed quickly and easily. In addition, many healthcare sets have Pro:Idiom™ enabled, without which you would not be able to deliver HD cable channels in a MATV environment without a set top box at each set.

The reason has to do with encryption of cable channels, cable networks like ESPN, Disney and HGTV require protection of their HD signals as a part of their copyright standards. To decrypt these protected signals, every TV set must have either internal decryption, or a set-top box must be installed with the decryption. Pro: Idiom is the encryption standard used by DirecTV, Dish and more and more cable companies.

Consumer TVs do not have decryption built in because cable and satellite companies are going to put in a receiver box in your home. Hospitals typically do not put a box at every tv because of higher cost, poorer room aesthetics, difficult mounting issues, higher maintenance and theft among other reasons. To avoid the third party hardware and still deliver HD signals, many hosital televisions sets today have pro:idiom built into them.

Hospitals are extremely complicated working envorionments, and harbor many unique challenges. Healthcare grade televisions are built specifically to accommodate those intricacies. Consumer televisions can be very attractive from a pricing standpoint, but can also be huge liabilities and roadblocks to the facility. Healthcare televisions provide the feature set needed for hospitals, as well as an enhanced peace of mind.

Dan Nathan, vice president and general manager at TeleHealth Services, has spent over 25 years in the hospital communications industry, working jointly with manufacturers to incorporate patient satisfaction solutions into healthcare facilities.