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Is there a difference between Medical and Non-Medical Power Supplies?


The power supply which you employ at home to supply working electricity to a device, like a laptop PC, is a pretty straightforward design. It takes AC power from a wall outlet, converts it to DC, reduces the voltage as necessary, and supplies power to a load. That’s the basic definition of any modern power supply and we cover these ideas in several of our tutorials.

A medical power supply does the same thing, but its’ design and manufacture provides for additional useful benefits. It protects both patients and clinical staff with extra layers of isolation from lethal voltages, provides regulated power for sensitive electronic equipment, offers resistance to EMI and RFI interference from outside sources, and includes enhanced thermal and humidity protection from nearby sources or from the environment.

Meeting the Standards

In order to do all of this, medical power supplies must comply with several international technical standards, most notably IEC60601: Product Safety Standards for Medical Devices. This is a series of technical standards spelling out the minimum safety and performance requirements for power supplies used in a medical setting. Sections of the standard also cover other medical electronic products.

First published in 1977, the standard has undergone four revisions and now includes many regional or country-based variations to cover additional technical aspects related to medical power supplies. Since its release, the accepted standards for the safety of medical electrical equipment have developed into some of the most rigorous of almost any industry.

Quality Patient Protection

As is typical with most medical electrical equipment, the patient is usually physically attached to it through wires, cables, sensors, etc. This means that the primary equipment safety concern is isolation of the patient from any lethal voltages, and protection of any clinical staff operating the equipment. This is accomplished through enhanced grounding, additional layers of electrical insulation, and improved electrical isolation in the power supply.

physical connections introduce electrical pathways
Physical connections introduce electrical pathways

Safety strategies such as these mean that medical power supplies are more costly than regular power supplies. Cost is not usually part of the equation when considering medical power supplies, however, greater focus is given for the potential of product recalls, warranty repairs, or legal action that may arise from using equipment not matched to the task.

If you are choosing a power supply for a medical electronics application, you will need to understand each of the characteristics that apply to these products. Standard, off-the-shelf medical power supplies are available to match almost any application, power needs, or footprint. Even if you are considering building your own custom supply, a review of the available products can be useful.

To read more on the topic of medical power supplies and more details on the difference between MOOP (Means of Operator Protection) and MOPP (Means of Patient Protection), you can visit our industry friends at OnlineComponents on their website: What is the Difference Between Medical and Non-Medical Power Supplies. As a major electronics distributor, they can help guide your search for medical power supply products that meet all safety regulations, or supply you with the proper components to build your own.

As research in the medical field accelerates, particularly due to advances in electronic sensing, monitoring, and diagnosis, the need for appropriate power conversion technology that follows safety regulations will become ever more intense. You have picked a good time to learn all that you can on this subject.

Authored By

Josh Bishop

Interested in embedded systems, hiking, cooking, and reading, Josh got his bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from Boise State University. After a few years as a CEC Officer (Seabee) in the US Navy, Josh separated and eventually started working on CircuitBread with a bunch of awesome people. Josh currently lives in southern Idaho with his wife and four kids.

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