In healthcare, there’s no time for downtime


It’s true — not all buildings are created equal. Whether it be for purpose, efficiency, safety, or security, different buildings perform in different ways. So, how can you be sure that your healthcare facility maintains continuity for the safety of patients and staff, even in the event of unplanned downtime? Building resilience into your facility and processes is the answer, and Louise Monger, Vice President for Digital Buildings at Schneider Electric says this foresight can go a long way toward recovering faster and lessening the impact of downtime.

What is building resiliency?

Louise says that the resilience of your healthcare facility is determined by the longer-term functionality of your building before, during, immediately-after, and long-after a specific event that disrupts the delivery of care.

“When an unplanned outage takes place, keeping your essential services running, your patients safe, and your assets and campuses secure becomes a priority that is only possible if advanced planning has occurred,” Louise says. “Put simply, your system requires data-driven power distribution and building management systems that proactively resist, recover from, and adapt to threats. An IoT-enabled infrastructure is foundational to resilience, helping you ensure 24/7 operational continuity, uninterrupted access to critical-to-care data, and robust systems.”

Why improve building resiliency?

According to a 2016 study1 conducted by Ponemon Institute, healthcare organisations face an average cost of $740,357 per downtime incident. With this information in mind, IoT-based power and building management systems prove their value the first time they prevent a downtime event.

In parallel, energy monitoring and forecasting in healthcare facilities not only allows for efficient operations on a day-to-day basis, but can also give an in-depth understanding of how you are using energy, how much the critical systems require, and when they require it most.

“To optimise resilience, healthcare facility managers should incorporate sustainability into their resilience plan,” Louise says. “For example, if there is a high chance that backup power is needed, FMs should plan first for the most efficient use of power under both normal and extreme conditions, and second, for that power to be provided by a fuel that will minimise greenhouse gas and other emissions.”

Likewise, monitoring of water systems can provide critical information and support the effective management of crucial resources in hazardous situations. Understanding a building’s water consumption under typical conditions will allow facility managers to gauge how much water will be required in emergencies. This real-time monitoring can inform Critical decisions about an ongoing medical procedure or whether external resources, or even evacuation, are required.

This level of information across all systems can inform critical decisions during an emergency and may allow a facility manager to turn off unnecessary loads or divert resources to where they are really needed.

Day-to-day resiliency

In medicine, your facility simply can’t afford a power problem disrupting a surgical procedure, an ICU, or other care areas, and according to Louise, an unseen factor in electrical reliability in your building is power quality issues. “Invisible conditions like harmonics and voltage fluctuations can cause malfunctions or shorten the life of sensitive equipment,” Louise says. “Unfortunately, these issues may only come to light following an incident or crisis.”

To make these issues visible Louise recommends an IoT-enabled platform, such as Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure.

“The EcoStruxure platform lets you connect everything in your enterprise from the shop floor to the top floor,” Louise says. “By collecting critical data through sensors and assets, EcoStruxure can then analyse this information and bring you meaningful insights which can be acted upon so your healthcare facility can achieve the highest level of resilience.”

Should I have a microgrid?

Maintaining operations and the delivery of essential services during an extended, unplanned power outage is a central requirement of your resiliency strategy. To really prepare for and protect against blackouts, Louise says you should consider more than one line of defence.

“An Emergency Power Supply System (EPSS), which supplies power quickly to all primary services on the site, including all essential services,” Louise says. “In addition to this, a microgrid can bring together all your energy sources while monitoring and managing supply and demand. As a result, microgrids provide the resilience you need to maintain normal hospital operations even if the utility grid goes down.”

To support onsite generators microgrids offer day-to-day power capacity requirements to help connect, control, and monitor your energy resources. Using software to control and optimise the microgrid means you can proactively manage your energy production, promote renewable energy, and support the traditional emergency backup power systems in the event of an outage. Software can also help you with the measurements and validation necessary to maintain building compliance and accreditation.

Keeping it all cybersecure

While the IoT revolution enhances many aspects of healthcare, it also comes with an increased risk of cyberattacks. To protect sensitive data and essential equipment, your entire infrastructure must be modernised and cybersecure.

“Deploying cybersecure-by-design operation technology (OT) is not enough,” Louise says. “You are only as strong as your weakest link, and the network layer — where devices communicate and data turns into business value — must also be protected. As you add or decommission devices over time or as older software becomes less secure, IT/OT becomes a complex puzzle.”

Cybersecurity can be a major problem, and in fact, the average cost of a cybersecurity breach in healthcare data (including up to 280 days of recovery time) is around $7 million2.

“As your IT and OT architecture evolves, so must your approach to cybersecurity,” Louise says. “It is best to start with an assessment that will analyse your operational environment for vulnerabilities and return prioritised recommendations to help you remediate high-risk areas first. At Schneider Electric, we offer scalable, 24/7 managed services to monitor and maintain your network, deploying technicians on-site as needed to help protect your power, systems, and people.”

Boost resiliency with remote operations and condition-based maintenance

Remote operations deliver so much more than the ability to react to alerts. The true value of remote operations for healthcare facilities lies in the capacity to pre-empt, proactively troubleshoot, and prevent problems with building management systems before a disruption occurs. Likewise, a reactive approach to maintaining your electrical and building management assets exposes everyone to risk and uncertainty.

The most effective approach is to employ condition-based maintenance, whereby you are able to use remote sensor information to assess when to perform maintenance on your critical assets, as and when it is needed, rather than on a set schedule.

“Condition-based maintenance leverages the power of big data to help you anticipate problems and prevent disruption,” Louise says. “The digitisation of power and building systems is the key to unlocking that data, making data-based decisions, and driving resiliency.”

Building for the future

For healthcare facilities of the future, resiliency needs to be a core part of construction. The financial benefits alone make this a worthwhile pursuit, but there are other incentives as well.

“To achieve resiliency in your healthcare facility you need to predict, prepare for, and protect against any adverse event,” Louise says. “But, resilience strategies offer more than just working out what happens in an emergency. Resilience planning enables you to think long-term through a wide lens to increase sustainability and make the best use of automation and data so that every day you can improve your power reliability, keep your healthcare facility cybersecure, protect your critical assets and manage your sites remotely.”

For more information about Schneider Electric’s Digital Building solutions for the future visit se.com/au/buildings-of-the-future

References:

1 https://interbitdata.com/costs-impact-hcis-downtimes/

2 https://www.hipaajournal.com/ibm-security-2020-cost-of-data-breach-report-shows-10-annual-increase-in-healthcare-data-breach-costs/

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/sudok1

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