The healthcare sector in Australia has been long challenged by the need to improve efficiency, productivity and effectiveness in response to an increased demand from an ageing population and access to multidisciplinary quality service across the continuum of care – from acute to primary care and community care. In the context of significant budget pressures and funding constraints, the evolution of services under the National Healthcare Reform has seen implementation of patient-centric models of care, underpinned by remodelled processes and increased technology adoption.
Similar to all other support services, the facility management (FM) service needs to be agile, flexible and aligned to the dynamic changes in the healthcare sector. Providing healthcare is the heart of all activity in the facility and its complexity and dynamic evolution drives changes in the buildings’ operating conditions. Changes, whether they occur from building infrastructure upgrades, or within the model of care or service profile, the FM team is required to promptly respond and replicate these changes in reliable, sustainable, continuous and available building services and associated practices.
Building services in healthcare facilities are managed through electronic systems, which monitor, control or simply handle alerts and notifications of operating status. Whether implemented in an integrated or standalone environment, these systems provide healthcare facility operators with valuable insight on building performance, status of critical infrastructure and likelihood of impact on clinical service delivery.
Harvesting data, analysing information
Applications and systems attached to building services accumulate a significant amount of data, which can then be synthesised into useful information, and is an important decision support tool in managing the infrastructure and service continuity in the healthcare facility. Correlating information from multiple sources, consolidating meaningful cause and effect scenarios enables early identification of stress points, and makes way for transparent and timely preventative actions.
Managing information from building systems also enables benchmarking of performance over time, patterns of building operation and changes in the environment, which, in turn, affect the capacity or quality of healthcare services.
Analysing and collaboratively managing patterns of infrastructure behaviour creates visibility into potential issues and strengthens engagement with all stakeholder groups in the facility. It turns a potentially daunting experience into a positive, proactive risk mitigation approach, allowing for wide recognition, shared commitment and support in required resolution.
Leverage on technology-driven tools
Aside from challenges – such as balancing the risk of downtime from infrastructure failures, the rising cost of maintenance for ageing plant and equipment, resources and budget constraints with an increased demand for performance and efficiency – the healthcare FM profession is also facing challenges from service criticality, considering that asset failure can potentially have a direct or indirect impact on patient care outcomes.
This level of complexity, and the number of variables involved in determining the right process and reaction under specific conditions, can no longer be contained without the aid of technology. Control systems, deployed as tools for managing complexity in healthcare FM, will extend to become a decision-support mechanism in the areas of operations, maintenance, performance, risk and cost-effective optimisation of resource allocation.
It is widely acknowledged that the control systems have become the tools used to collect data on building behaviours, and support the course of actions required to retain, sustain or improve the quality of service in building operations. Considering the complexity and broader operational reach of healthcare FM, however, there is significant potential to unlock the value from managing information extracted from these systems. This can be achieved by providing actionable intelligence and expert guidance with clear, prioritised asset optimisation recommendations that are based on statistical analysis, performance trending, and automated diagnostics – with results that improve the performance, compliance, energy, comfort and financial well-being of healthcare buildings.
Through robust and structured information management, facility managers can understand how to take advantage of the building services data, find hidden costs and inefficiencies, mitigate risk of asset failure or service downtime, and hence optimise operational performance of the facility. Information management for healthcare facilities goes beyond monitoring and control systems, and provides the automated fault detection and diagnostics required to identify, prioritise and act on cost savings opportunities while reducing the risk of infrastructure failures.
Derive a results-driven, proactive approach
The transparency into buildings’ behaviour created from analysed data enables fact-based decisions and confidence in capital and sustainment investments allowing a results-driven and proactive approach. The business value of information management for healthcare buildings is translated into measurable results such as green star ratings, energy management, operational efficiency and regulatory compliance, meaningful spending on operational activities and sustained savings from proactive building management.
Managing information from building systems in healthcare facilities is a process-driven activity aimed at translating data into actionable results, while delivering cause and effect scenarios on the most costly issues affecting healthcare. This process is based on robust and structured monitoring, seeking to continuously measure and validate potential infrastructure inefficiencies or scenarios of failure.
Benefits of a holistic approach
Another significant benefit from a holistic approach to information management comes from generating automated reports required for assets operating patterns, regulatory compliance and healthcare quality system accreditation. The types and purpose of reporting varies, and hence there is a need for inbuilt flexibility to extract data from a variety of sources. Reporting on required optimisation of plant operation involves technical parameters that are otherwise insufficient for functional systems performance reports. Similar to all other topics discussed in this article, report generation in a healthcare facility is a process-driven activity that requires modelling and alignment within the context of core activity requirements.
Additionally, the access to information has to be enabled for multiple levels within the healthcare organisation to facilitate management of core or support activities.
What price, energy?
In Australia, energy prices have increased 19 percent over the last three years. Considering the current and projected cost increase for energy and knowing that healthcare facilities are among the most aggressive consumers, it is time to look into possibilities for energy savings. This can not only help in meeting hospitals’ sustainability targets, including greenhouse gas and peak energy reduction, but can also assist in managing an already tight operating budget by optimising consumption while retaining continuity of service. Building services information management is the common denominator for visualising and analysing potential solutions for better-informed decisions. Analysing healthcare energy data can provide tangible benefits and enables transparency of available energy conservation measures.
This is an abridged version of a white paper from Schneider Electric titled: ‘Managing information from building systems for efficiency, productivity, compliance and continuity of service’.
Irina is Schneider Electric’s Healthcare Solution Architect in Australia. She is currently leading the healthcare solutions development and implementation for the Healthcare and Life Sciences segment in Australia. Prior to her joining Schneider Electric, she held the role of Director of Engineering and Building Services with Lyell McEwin Hospital in South Australia. Irina’s extensive healthcare experience and domain knowledge drives Schneider Electric’s Healthcare solutions’ development towards relevance in healthcare context, business & technology alignment. Through leadership in energy management and systems integration, Schneider Electric solutions bring together enhanced discreet interactions, functionality, capability and optimal facility operation.
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