By Maurizio Lauria, Brand Manager, STEUTE Meditech Inc.
Medical professionals now require more sophisticated technology, greater efficiency and a much greater degree of specialization in the medical devices they use.
Changes have been especially swift in operating rooms, with new suites, minimally invasive techniques and better support for outpatient surgery. It’s within the realm of possibility, for instance, that the next surgical procedure you undergo might be partially automated. In other words, a robot might be the one handling the procedure.
“Surgeons who use the robotic system find that for many procedures it enhances precision, flexibility and control during the operation and allows them to better see the site, compared with traditional techniques,” the Mayo Clinic says.
There are multiple reasons for improving technology in healthcare. “U.S. hospitals are under pressure to cut costs and become more profitable amid a wave of consolidation driven by private equity investors buying up hospital systems,’ Becker’s Hospital Review reported. “Additionally, there has a push by the federal government and private insurance companies away from the ‘fee-for-service’ model of reimbursement—which incentivized clinicians for increased quantity of care—and toward ‘value-based care’— which aims to strike a better balance between cost, risk, and quality.”
One area medical professionals have seen improved efficiency is in foot control devices. Foot controls for medical equipment differ markedly from those required industrial use. From the housing’s anti-slip pads to the mating connector, the design requirements for medical-grade foot controls vary sharply compared to other industries.
Actuator style, location and operating forces are among the key factors in designing foot controls for medical use – and are rarely even considered in industrial applications. When it comes to foot pedals for the medical community, one size definitely does not fit all.
The diversity of medical applications, and the growing number of features offered by medical device OEMs, often requires multi-function foot controls. For example, electrosurgical generators typically require two or three functions. Positioning systems may need two to eight functions, and surgical microscopes often require eight or more functions.
While the standard foot pedal, equipped with reed switches, micro switches, potentiometers, and Hall-effect transducers, could be used for each function, practicality demands the use of other actuator styles. Examples of other types of actuators include:
- Push buttons
- Rocker switches
- Joy pads
- Custom-designed actuators
Medical device OEMs can choose between a wide selection of actuator types and styles, and each has its own benefit. These choices may be influenced by their basic control function (e.g., on/off vs. proportional control) and/or their frequency of use during a specific procedure. The following table provides a brief review of these choices and a sampling of typical applications for each.
An effective design can benefit from the use of a diversity of actuator styles. Each of these must be designed and efficiently located, with careful attention to actuating force, sealing, frequency of use, protection against simultaneous operation, and labeling requirements.
Factors affecting ergonomic design include:
- Number of functions to be controlled
- Type of function — discrete vs. proportional
- Frequency of use of each function
- Duration of actuation of each function
- Length of the procedure
- Is the user standing or sitting
- Typical shoe styles and widths
- Type of footwear typically worn by the operator
- User experiences and preferences
- Actuator operating force
- Actuator travel/displacement
- Tactile feel of an actuator
- Location of actuators
- Geometry of host console
With the foot control as a major human interface for a medical device, design plays an important role in both functionality and market appeal. Because of the characteristics demanded of a medical application, there are significant benefits in designing a foot control that is “medical-grade” from the outset.
The above options, if addressed early in the design cycle, can result in a foot control that is optimized for functionality, performance, reliability, comfort, ease-of-use, and aesthetic-compatibility with the medical device it is controlling.
Steute Technologies has been developing and manufacturing foot switches for nearly 60 years. The Steute portfolio encompasses a wide range of standard products, as well as numerous customized devices. Its line of foot switches are widely used in the medical industry, including laser devices, x-ray and MRI equipment, high-frequency surgery, operating tables and chairs, and in the ophthalmology and dental sectors.
Keeping in line with the medical community’s emphasis on cost containment, Steute’s wireless foot switch technology eliminates the need and expense of replacing damaged foot switch cables.
Taking these factors into account will continue to help the medical community put its best foot forward, and improve healthcare for everyone.
Sponsored content by STEUTE Meditech Inc.