Hospital conditions must remain stable and healthy for the preservation of life and pharmaceutical storage. Sebastian Krueger says modern systems can simplify the task at hand.
Hospitals are highly complex environments that must maintain precise temperature, humidity, pressurisation, airflow and air quality, as well as optimal lighting conditions, 24/7. This is to ensure the comfort and safety of patients, employees, suppliers and visitors, but also enables pharmaceutical storage facilities to function correctly.
Ensuring precise environmental conditions is crucial for the stability of pharmaceutical products. Poor temperature control can be detrimental to the effectiveness of the drugs and can cost thousands in wasted products. Some medications must be frozen to -15 degrees Celcius or lower, some should be refrigerated at between two and eight degrees Celcius, and some do not need cold storage but must be stored in a cool, dry place away from bright lighting or direct sunlight.
At $2.4 billion, the Royal Adelaide Hospital is the most expensive building ever constructed in Australia and the new hospital was designed to be more like a hotel. However, when the doors opened 18 months late, the lights went out in the middle of operations due to a software failure and duress alarms didn’t work.
Hospital building management and control systems
Maintaining these precise environmental controls is clearly essential in hospitals, and their building management and control systems (BMCS) designed to handle this monumental task are certainly pushed to the limit at times. Hospitals’ facilities managers need to continually analyse environmental controls data, predict challenges and respond to changing conditions, as well as deliver reports in line with regulatory compliance requirements.
With patient satisfaction and health outcomes more closely aligned to revenues than ever, hospitals are looking for ways to enhance the patient experience and the performance of their buildings, and medical storage facilities are critical to achieving this. Modern BMCS provide a bird’s-eye view into system performance affecting everything from climate control to lighting, which enables them to guarantee a safer and more comfortable experience for patients and the right storage environment for medications.
This level of integration and centralised control becomes increasingly important due to other changes happening in the healthcare sector. The majority of healthcare facilities have become large networks spread across different locations. With this transition, the challenge of managing many buildings across multiple sites is common. However, these complex networks need to be monitored centrally to ensure that they are functioning as they should.
In addition, BMCS are becoming the core infrastructure for smart hospitals that are doing away with siloed systems and incorporating intelligent BMCS that can not only support energy efficiency but can also fully integrate with other healthcare software and systems.
Preventative maintenance in hospitals
Equipment performance data analysis is essential in healthcare settings and can help hospitals to transition from following a preventive maintenance strategy to a predictive one, enabling them to plan for maintenance to occur when notified about equipment performance issues by their monitoring system, rather than by relying on fixed timetables or reactively addressing equipment failures. By collecting the data and completing the analysis, facilities managers can schedule resources more efficiently and have more flexibility to minimise impacts on patients and medical staff.
Open standard protocols
Thankfully, proprietary protocols are no longer found in the hospital environment and these days controllers are designed to support open standard protocols, which means they can support a variety of protocols that connect to various types of control systems in hospitals, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, security, lifts and even bed tracking.
This integration of building systems can be supported by wireless technology, which has made this an increasingly vital option for hospitals. These wireless systems operate on BACnet, which is an open standard communication protocol that allows users to integrate multiple HVAC systems and BMCS, allowing for more effective hospital management.
Tracking KPIs, speed and performance
If a hospital can integrate information from multiple systems, it can assist when they need to track key performance indicators (KPIs) for things such as infection control, which can involve monitoring and controlling humidity levels and air changes in critical areas of the hospital such as the COVID wards. By continuously monitoring environmental conditions and performance, facilities managers can quickly address potential problems before they become serious.
Today, healthcare facilities have upgraded to much faster processing and network speeds for room controls. As everything is moving at a much faster speed, allowing a hospital to run building operations more efficiently is dependent on this speed and performance being maintained.
Hospitals and energy efficiency
The availability of low-cost electricity meters enables heavy users such as hospitals to monitor down to a specific load, whether it be lighting, equipment or plugs. This allows them to become extremely granular with their monitoring and sensors will see where they may be wasting energy in the hospital and they can then tailor their energy management approach to reduce both costs and carbon emissions.
One example of how this can be achieved is to put patient rooms and medical facilities such as operating theatres into an energy-saving, unoccupied mode based on data received via sensors. Room temperature, airflow, lighting and blinds can be automatically adjusted to desired settings for times when the room is unoccupied.
Centralised monitoring provides a single pane of glass
Too often, hospitals operate several separate system interfaces to run their facilities. With better systems integration, there will be a ‘single pane of glass’ that pulls the data from all hospital BMCS into one dashboard. The ultimate goal is to consolidate these siloed systems into a single front end, which means that they can maintain the precise environmental conditions required using centralised infrastructure monitoring.
Sebastian Krueger is Asia Pacific vice president at Paessler.