If you have ever visited a hospital recently, it is likely that you could have seen a few medical grade monitors. You may not have recognized them or known how they differ from commercially available monitors, but they are there. For all you know, your own physician may have used medical grade monitors to diagnose your condition. To most people commercial grade monitors look the same as medical grade ones, and the image quality is almost the same. But if you look into it, there are lots of significant differences.
What makes a medical grade monitor different
Medical grade monitors are specially designed for use in medical and healthcare facility environments. As such, these types of monitors are not cheap; they typical cost 2.5 to 3 times of an equivalent sized commercial grade monitor. The big difference in price is due to the features and more stringent quality requirements for monitors used in the medical field.
One of the most important differences is image quality, especially as measured in the number of colors the monitors are able to display. Commercially available monitors have the ability to display 16.7 million different colors. Medical grade monitors, on the other hand, are able to display 1.074 billion colors; that is 64 times more than what commercial monitors are capable of. In contrast, our eyes can only perceive anywhere from a million to ten million different color shades.
You may be right to wonder why bother displaying lots more color than our eyes can see. The answer is that these different shades contribute to the overall clarity of the images displayed on the screen. When medical professionals, such as surgeons, have to rely on images on monitor screens for their diagnosis and treatment decisions, image clarity becomes very critical.
To be able to display such a high level of available color hues, medical grade monitors must support 10-bit per color output. Bit output is the measure of the number of RBG signals the system can process. In For this to work, the image, the application software, video card , the computer and the monitor must all support 10-bit output This capability is only found in high end graphics processors and CPU’s.
To enable a clean and clear view of stored images, medical grade touch screens are fitted with automated backlighting. This is essentially just a circuit that maintains stable peak levels of brightness from a cold start to the time when the monitor has fully warmed up. A photometer within the monitor measures adjusts for peak luminance many times per second to provide a consistent level of brightness.
Since these monitors will be used in medical care facilities, their casings are tightly sealed so they cannot be easily contaminated. The casings themselves are often impregnated with anti-microbial chemicals. Medical grade monitors also have to meet performance standards set by the Food and Drug Administration, the National Fire Protection Association, and other government agencies.
When viewing ordinary patient records, commercial monitor screens will do. But for diagnosis, treatments and procedural guidance, physicians rely on medical grade monitors.