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Data to drive new levels of efficiency in healthcare facilities

By Manoj Soni / Vice President of EcoBuilding Business - Gulf Countries and Pakistan, Schneider Electric 28/10/2018

It’s no secret that healthcare facilities are among the most energy intensive building environments. They operate 24/7 all through the year and must follow strict regulations. Today’s hospitals are under tremendous pressure to serve growing patient populations despite shrinking budgets, and facilities staff are responsible for the daunting task of maintaining facility health while ensuring patient safety and regulatory compliance.

There has never been a greater need for hospitals to improve efficiency, productivity and effectiveness. Unfortunately, many healthcare facilities are still in the slow lane when it comes to implementing new technologies that can help them achieve these goals.

A number of factors complicate the adoption of certain technologies in the healthcare arena. Facility managers need immediate access to infrastructure information to ensure the comfort and safety of patients, staff and visitors. But hospital building systems are far more complex than in other types of facilities, with exponentially more moving parts. Often maintenance personnel are not even aware of a system issue or malfunction until someone enters a work order. This not only delays response time, but frustrates facility staff by placing them in perpetual “catch-up” mode.

Additionally, many facility managers are aware of the significant energy waste that happens every day in patient rooms and operating theaters, but they remain powerless to meticulously and manually adjust every area within their sprawling campuses. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day or members on the facilities staff to ensure temperatures aren’t set too high and lights are turned off in unoccupied rooms.

So how can hospital facility managers address these challenges? The answer lies in data that’s already right in front of them.

Leveraging Building and Patient Data for Improved Savings and Satisfaction

The building management system (BMS) is like the respiratory system of a hospital. It breathes air in and out of the hospital and filters out contaminants that could threaten patients, staff and equipment. The BMS also provides enormous value as it aggregates what is usually disparate building data to uncover inefficiencies and alert facilities staff to equipment problems. But the BMS typically lacks insight into a critical component of the healthcare environment – its ever-evolving patient population. Admission, discharge and transfer (ADT) systems are the keeper of patient comings and goings and can be used by facilities staff to deliver new opportunities for energy savings, staff productivity and patient satisfaction.

Today’s technology enables facility managers to leverage critical room occupancy data that previously hadn’t been used to its full potential. The key is sharing information through a Health Level-7 (HL7) interface that ensures compliance with international healthcare security and patient privacy standards.

Using HL7, facilities staff can create interoperability between a hospital’s BMS and its clinical scheduling, housekeeping and ADT systems. For example, a clinical environment optimisation solution can share the occupancy status of patient rooms and operating theatres with the BMS, which then sets rooms to predetermined set points for HVAC and lighting during vacancy to achieve energy savings during unoccupied times. The BMS puts the room back into normal operation when it receives a notification that the patient will be returning, or when a room has been assigned to maintain the optimal environment for patient healing and satisfaction.

This level of integration leads to a number of benefits including:

  • Energy savings – Facility managers can reduce energy use in rooms that are vacant or unoccupied for long periods of time and make more informed decisions about how to best manage room conditions.
  • Improved staff productivity – Maintenance and cleaning staff gain productivity by knowing when they can schedule work in patient rooms conveniently and efficiently when rooms are unoccupied.
  • Enhanced patient satisfaction – Patients have the ability to specify their preferred room temperature during the admission process or control it themselves from their room via a mobile app.

A small change can make a big impact on how much energy a facility consumes, and on the operating budget. In fact, just a 20 per cent energy saving can save up to US$1.8 million a year for a 250-bed hospital. Those savings can be reinvested in a variety of ways, from new clinical services to attract patients, to additional savings opportunities through infrastructure retrofits or green initiatives.

More than half (54 per cent) of healthcare executives rank patient experience and satisfaction among their top three priorities.[1] For healthcare providers, there is value in delivering a high-quality, positive and engaging patient experience. For instance, a hospital with US$120 million annual revenues can improve patient satisfaction and realize an estimated US$2.2 million to US$5.4 million in additional revenue annually.[2]

But as hospitals struggle to manage limited budgets, some are forced to consider staff cuts. This measure only creates more problems because staff shortages will ultimately impact the overall patient experience and drive down satisfaction scores.

By implementing energy efficiency measures, hospitals can reduce their operating costs while also improving the quality of care they deliver to patients. The added level of control and choice patients have over their environment during their hospital stay has been proven to improve patient satisfaction.

Today’s healthcare facility managers can make smarter decisions about their energy use by integrating the clinical and facilities sides of their organization.The end result is a win for patients, hospital staff and the bottom line.

[1] “2013 Industry Survey Data,” HealthLeadersMedia, (2013).

[2] Hall, Melvin F. “Looking to Improve Financial Results? Start by Listening to Patients,” Healthcare Financial Management, (October 2008).

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