Fancy flat displays are not just for gadgets for fashion-statement Apple computers anymore. They are being used throughout healthcare technology applications — bedside monitors, radiology workstations, surgical guidance systems, everywhere. So how do you choose the perfect flat display without floundering? We offer suggestions on selection, care and quality assurance.

photoFlat panel displays just plain look cool. But can the plane become a pain to the healthcare technology service and support professional? Rest assured, biomedical equipment technicians don’t need to become flat panel experts overnight, reassures Bill Greenblatt, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Quest International, an independent source for medical displays in Irvine, Ca. Still, there is an epidemic of flat panel fever in the air. Indeed, most new sales of physiological monitor displays are flat panels. The upshot? Biomeds need a working familiarity with flat panel display technology.

Most flat panel liquid crystal displays (LCDs) utilize thin film transistor (TFT) technology. A TFT, or active screen, switches pixels on and off more efficiently than a passive flat panel screen, which uses capacitors instead of transistors. Although active screens cost more than their passive counterparts, there are a number of advantages to active LCD screens. These include a wider viewing angle, better resolution and image quality, and more brightness and contrast.

But purchasing an active LCD screen may not always the right choice in the hospital environment. Michael Balanokis, President of MedEquip Biomedical (Miami, Fl.), recommends passive screens for ICU nursing station installations. “In the ICU environment, all displays are on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With everyone tapping on the screen (as they tend to in ICU), an active display would wear out faster,” believes Balakonis.

Robert Heise, Vice President and General Manager of the Display Systems Group at Richardson Electronics in LaFox, Ill., holds a different view. “There’s no reason not buy an active matrix. A touch screen acts as a protective panel for the LCD,” says Heise.

Typical medical flat panel video display applications include pure text or data entry, displaying waveforms in bedside patient monitoring or central station arrangements, and diagnostic imaging applications. Most medical imaging applications, including MRI, ultrasound, CT and PACS, can use flat panel displays as effectively as CRT displays. Similarly, flat panel devices work with bedside and central station monitors, but the right flat panel for one application may be all wrong for another. Arthur Mengel, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Aydin Displays, explains, “Each modality has different performance criteria.” Generally, the right flat panel match boils down to resolution and color.

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