The last twenty years has definitely seen the world become increasingly defined by smarter, more advanced computer technology. The field of healthcare is no exception. Many people are likely to see a keyboard and a digital screen at their local dentist as much as the usual chair and tools.
However, these very same hi-tech upgrades can now also be hazardous liabilities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the world. In fact, now is the most important time for practitioners to consider if their computer equipment is meeting the highest standards for decontamination.
The keyboards you use may be very well the biggest indicator.
The reasons for this are pretty evident, even from a layman’s perspective. Keyboards are exposed heavily to hand contact and Coronaviruses are commonly transmitted through hands. That makes them a huge risk, especially in settings like hospitals where a single keyboard could have multiple people making contact with them in any given day.
Some might think that the solution is in regularly disinfecting keyboards. Unfortunately, the very design of your average keyboard makes it impractical. And on that same note, this same design is the reason why medical keyboards had been made.
Here are just some of the features they have that make a critical difference.
1. Glass/Silicone Surface
Contrary to what some might think, the sleek look of a medical-grade keyboard is not just for show. Regular ones already take an atrocious amount of time to clean up because they tend to be stockier, come with many moving parts and will be damaged because of liquids (including disinfectants).
In contrast, medical keyboards come with smooth surfaces thanks to glass or silicone. This allows both for easy cleaning as well as preventing the keys themselves from accidentally being damaged from any wiping motion.
2. IP68 Ratings
An IP rating is short for Ingress Protection rating. This is actually an international standard that certifies an electronic device’s capability to prevent dust from getting inside it as well as water. The two digits represent a device’s rank in both areas, and 68 is the highest any device can get.
Naturally, that means it is a standard to expect from a medical keyboard. As mentioned above, preventing water from getting inside is important to ensure that a keyboard can be disinfected while being regularly used. Meanwhile, preventing dust also means there are lesser hidden spaces and corners for viruses to cluster and hide beyond the reach of cleaning.
3. Wirelessness and Mobility
Lastly, medical keyboards must obviously have a wireless feature. This is not just for mere hi-tech convenience. The current crisis has led to a rising number of medical professionals being called to the frontlines (in a recent development in the U.K., even dentists have just been tapped for support).
That means a lot of them will be on the move and wireless keyboards can help with that mobility. Asides from that, the absence of wires also means less surfaces for dirt and viruses to latch onto and further reducing risks of spreading COVID-19. (That said, it is highly recommended that the keyboard also has long battery life for this.)
Truth be told, a lot of these features had always been present in medical keyboard design before this pandemic. Still, the reasons for why they have them is not always common knowledge (or worse, taken for granted). Being aware of these standards can serve as an important reminder for any practitioner who could make a grave mistake using a keyboard in an environment it is extremely unqualified for.