Remote Power Tap (RPT)

MedWrench Guru Tommy Lobato, Clinical Engineering Manager at SCL Health, Good Samaritan Medical Center, provides advice on the use of RPTs.

Mon Apr 05 2021By Tommy Lobato

CMS sent out a letter in 2014 regarding the use of RPTs, aka power strips, in the use of the patient care vicinity (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Ref: S&C: 14-46-LSC, September 26, 2014). To summarize, devices can be used as long as the below requirements are met. Directly quoting from the letter:

1) The receptacles are permanently attached to the equipment assembly.

2) The sum of the ampacity of all appliances connected to the receptacles shall not exceed 75 percent of the ampacity of the flexible cord supplying the receptacles.

3) The ampacity of the flexible cord is suitable in accordance with the current edition of NFPA 70, National Electric Code.

4) The electrical and mechanical integrity of the assembly is regularly verified and documented through an ongoing maintenance program.

5) Means are employed to ensure that additional devices or nonmedical equipment cannot be connected to the multiple outlet extension cord after leakage currents have been verified as safe.

Whether or not the Joint Commission checks for this at your site during the survey, the use of RPTs is still a requirement by the aforementioned letter. Most of you probably understand this but just a word of caution because…  

Newer Technology - We were recently cited for this as our RPTs were not in compliance with #1, #2 and #5 above. We have decided to resolve the issue with the use of RPTs from Leviton. Their top-of-the-line RPT alerts the user when 75% of the amperage is reached through the use of an LED – #2.  It also has built-in overload protection.  The ampacity of the cord meets #3 and the connected covers meets #5. See their website and literature for more information. I want to give Leviton a ‘shout out’. They are responsive and great to work with all the way from corporate sales to the local distributor.  

Another option – There are other ways to comply with the CMS requirement. In my former life we employed the use of placards attached to each RPT with a color chart detailing the combination of devices that can be used together. To implement this method, you have to group equipment according to amperage and then identify it by a color on the device. Not the power cords, those move too often from one device to another. The user then has to ensure that each device and combination is in accordance with the chart on the placard. Don’t forget #5.

There may be other options or processes others have implemented. I am not aware of any besides discontinuing the use of RPTs altogether. The inspector was aware of the placard/color chart method and offered it to us.

In Summary – 

Abiding by the letter is the right thing to do for patient safety. A bad scenario would be for a power strip to become overloaded during surgery and trip the breaker. That would not be a good day. Contact me if you would like more information on the topic. 

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