9 Ways to Enhance the Security of a Medical Cart

Consider these options to keep medical supplies secure in your medical cart.

A nurse pushing a medical cart.
A nurse pushing a medical cart.. Joos Mind/Getty Images

Carts are used for many purposes in hospitals and outpatient clinics. They store and transport medical supplies for procedures and they should be secured to prevent theft or loss.

Medical Cart Uses

Generally, carts are stocked with the appropriate mix of supplies so it can serve its designated purpose. Its contents will be different for various offices and medical specialties.

For example, a cart may be called a "Cast Cart" because it is stocked with medical supplies needed for splinting and casting.

Another cart may hold only the supplies necessary for opening a difficult airway, and thus earning the name "Airway Cart".

A "Crash Cart" (typically a red cart with red drawers) would be stocked with the necessary equipment for clinicians to perform the Advanced Cardiac Life Support protocol to save a patient suffering from cardiac arrest.

Specifying the right cart size, appropriate material, configuration of drawers inside, components on the top, and accessories mounted on the sides, are just the first steps. Protecting your investment (the cart and its contents) requires careful consideration too.

Medical Cart Security Options

Consider when and how to lock your cart in order to prevent supplies from being stolen, not only for financial reasons but for safety as well.

1. Deluxe Keyless Entry

  • Keeps cart drawers or medication cassettes locked within a cart.
  • Access to the drawers or cassettes is enabled by staff entering a code on the keypad.
  • When shut, it automatically locks.
  • Typically provides a feature that allows for several user entry codes and multiple (though fewer) supervisor codes.
  • Look for a key lock on the lock bar or door. This enables key entry as a back-up in an emergency.
  • Some manufacturers have an alarm feature. It will sound if the door is left open for longer than a programmable set period of time.
  • Batteries power the deluxe keyless entry lock, and should include a low-battery alert.
  • Deluxe keyless entry locks are typically only available on doors or lock bars that secure an entire cart. They typically are too big to fit on an individual drawer.

2. Basic Keyless Entry

  • Can be specified on a cart door or lockbar to secure multiple drawers or medication cassettes in the cart.
  • Can also be specified for an individual drawer.
  • A simple code punched into the keypad enables access.
  • Keypads are available that allow a supervisor to change the code.
  • Powered by batteries.
  • Check to see if the cart lock has a tamper protection feature. This puts the lock into delay or sleep mode if several incorrect codes are entered.
  • Make sure there are back-up features. Two options:
    • A 9-volt battery "jump start" capability (yes, like jump-starting a dead car battery)
    • A lock and key

3. Keyed Lock Bar

  • A keyed lock bar that spans about a quarter the cart and its drawers.
  • Covers just enough of the drawers to prevent them from opening when in the locked and closed position.
  • Requires just a key to lock and unlock it.
  • A master key can be ordered with multiple carts for supervisors to use as a back-up.

4. Breakaway Bar

  • Locks in drawers and cassettes.
  • Vertically placed on either the front right or front left side of a cart.
  • Generally used for visual inventory control. For example, a cart may be stocked at the beginning of a shift. If the lock bar is pulled open, staff will know that someone has already accessed the cart and that it will need to be replenished with supplies.

5. Individual Breakaway Tabs

  • Small clips, or tabs, that clamp down from a side of the cart onto the front of a drawer.
  • Like a breakaway bar, breakaway tabs are also used for visual inventory control. Once the tab is visibly broken away, staff can tell that someone has already been in that drawer, and thus it is not fully stocked any longer.

6. Wall Lock

  • Locks a cart to a wall.
  • Resembles and acts like a bicycle lock.
  • Typically a steel cable that routes through a side-mounted loop on the cart and locks to a wall-mounted box.

7. Door

  • A door fully conceals cart contents.
  • Works like a typical fully hinged door, with a key lock.

8. Proximity Reader

  • A proximity reader mounts onto a cart case. It allows access to the cart when a staff member waves their badge (or proximity card) in front of the reader.

9. Drawer Locks

  • Drawers can be locked individually, either locked into the cart or locked at the drawer top.
  • Basic Keyless Entry Lock
  • Key lock
  • Drawer Lid

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