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Everywhere you look, the world has been taken over by devices and technologies with touch screens. The raison d’être is simple: touch screens are quicker, more efficient and more intuitive to use than keyboard and / or mouse-controlled computers. ATMs, information kiosks, ticketing machines, smartphones, and tablets: you name it, most modern versions are equipped with touch panels.
The vast popularity of touch screen technology hasn’t escaped the medical healthcare industry… far from it, actually. In fact, touch screen technology is benefitting healthcare institutions and professionals in ways previously unimaginable. Not only do touch screens have a cutting-edge aesthetic and feel, without lots of buttons, they’re also much easier to keep clean and offer far better durability.
One touch technology in particular has proven its mettle in the healthcare arena and in this blog we shall be exploring the wonderful capabilities and benefits of projected capacitive (PCAP) touch.
Measuring PCAP Against The Other Forms Of Touch Technology
There are five different kinds of touch technology available today: 5-wire resistive, surface capacitive, projected capacitive, surface acoustic wave (SAW) and infrared (IR). According to DisplaySearch’s 2011 Touch Panel Report, “Projected capacitive became the leading touch screen technology in terms of revenue in 2010.”
Today, capacitive projective (PCAP) touch screens are the top-selling touch technology!
To better appreciate the popularity of PCAP and its incredible applications in the field of medicine and healthcare, we need to have a preliminary understanding of how it works and how it differs from traditional technologies, such as resistive touch.
PCAP Touch Versus Resistive Touch
Resistive touch screens consist of a malleable film covered by a glass panel, both of which are layered by a thin metallic sheet with a slim gap between them. When you press the screen with your finger, the two metallic sheets come together and in making contact, an electric current is generated telling the device where the point of contact has been made.
PCAP also consists of two layers, however, this technology makes use of a 3D electrostatic field, which is interfered with when a finger comes into contact with the screen, thereby allowing the device to determine the precise location of the touch points. Because these two layers don’t need to come into physical contact, the top layer can be made from a clear, strong piece of glass instead of a layer of film. Glass is not only more durable and scratch resistant than a softer film, but it also allows for the entire panel to be completely sealed against dust, moisture and other contaminants.
The physical enclosure of the device itself can also be manufactured to sit flush with the glass panel, which subsequently acts as the faceplate of the monitor, giving PCAP its smart and sophisticated zero-bezel design.
With a screen that’s more vulnerable to scratching, general wear-and-tear, humidity and temperature, resistive touch screens can be notoriously inaccurate. In fact, if you’ve ever used a resistive touch monitor or panel, you’ll probably be familiar with the experience of placing your finger against the panel and having the system register the point of contact to be elsewhere… sometimes significantly elsewhere. This malfunction is often the result of the above-mentioned factors (temperature, humidity, damage, contaminants, etc.)
This highlights a serious problem with resistive touch technology, particularly in the medical and healthcare sector where time and efficiency is really of the essence: If a doctor or surgeon is frustrated by faulty equipment and has to repeatedly tap away at the computer monitor in order to activate a specific function during an emergency, the delays caused cause put the patient’s life at risk!
PCAP touch screens can be made from a suite of different materials; however, the most popular choice is glass and PET films (for image clarity). PCAP touch screens that are fabricated entirely from glass do not suffer from this “drift” malfunction and are, in any case far more resistant to scratching. Additionally, PCAP monitors periodically perform automated background calibration cycles in order to eliminate changes in the electrostatic field caused by moisture and temperature. As such, these state-of-the-art screens never require manual calibration.
It’s owing to this benefit over resistive touch technology, their scratch resistance, incredible durability and – here’s an important one – imperviousness to the powerful cleaning / sterilizing agents and solutions typically used in medical settings that PCAP touch monitors are particularly useful in equipment, such as X-rays, iCAT-scans and other diagnostic imaging technologies.
The Robust Features of PCAP Touch Technology
The fabrication of PCAP touch screens entirely from glass offers up a suite of other really interesting benefits, for example, it increases the temperature range in which the equipment can function! In fact, state-of-the-art PCAP monitors can accurately function in settings ranging from -30°C to 70°C and higher! This capability could be immensely useful in rooms that need to be kept exceedingly cool, such as medical laboratories, medical storage facilities and, not to be grim, morgues. The greater operating temperature range, however, makes PCAP touch monitors useful in a much greater variety of industries and applications and not just medical healthcare.
Another robust feature of today’s PCAP touch screens are their ability to withstand exposure to the harsh sterilizing chemicals needed to keep them clean and sanitary, something that’s of utmost importance in medical settings, such as surgical theatres, examination rooms and diagnostic labs. Also, where many other touch technologies can only be operated with a naked finger or specially charged stylus, PCAP touch panels can be activated with a gloved finger. This means that nurses and physicians won’t have to remove their surgical gloves to interact with the device and, in turn, this keeps the device sterile for longer.
Modern PCAP Technology: More Touch, Bigger Panels
Many PCAP touch devices are now available with true multi-touch function, which means that they can be controlled and activated using more than one finger. What this has done is enhance the user’s interaction with the technology or device, making it quicker and easier to operate and more intuitive to use, which truly optimizes user experience.
And, of course, these advancements in complexity are matched by advancements in size! PCAP technology doesn’t impose a limit on the size of the panel and so manufacturers are creating larger and larger touch monitors, which really opens the doors for workplace collaboration and interaction between doctors and patients. Think about it: doctors can use touch screen tablets or monitors to show patients test results and to better explain their treatment plans, while conference rooms can be outfitted with large touch monitors, which are excellent tools for presentations, education and collaborative projects between medical staff members.
What this all does, indirectly, is enhance the relationships between doctors and their patients, as well as between the individuals that make up the healthcare team in hospitals and other medical facilities.
PCAP Touch Technology: Taking Medical Healthcare To The Next Level
With the use of pure glass as the touch interface, PCAP offers users increased visibility, light transmissivity and image clarity resulting in crystal clear display. How is this useful in the medical industry? Older technologies lacking in image clarity and nuanced contrast ratios could make it difficult for diagnosticians to detect alarming test results such as tumors, clots and other health issues. For this reason, PCAP touch screen monitors are actually helping physicians save more lives, effectively taking healthcare to the next level!
What else could PCAP devices possibly offer?
For starters, current PCAP touch monitors, which allow for more robust and durable designs, boast a longer lifespan than their peers. And the future is bright… literally! There are technologies currently under development that are designed to increase image clarity and sunlight readability even further.
The Benefits Of PCAP In The Medical Field: An Overview
Throughout this blog, we have covered a truly staggering number and variety of benefits offered by PCAP touch screen technology to the medical healthcare industry. Let’s provide a brief recap of what they are:
As medical technology undergoes constant development and advancement, so too should its touch interface technology and as we can see from all these incredible capabilities, modern PCAP touch technologies truly are state-of-the-art!