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Jeff is the Executive Vice President at Wadsworth Solutions. Wadsworth Solutions is a Master-level BMS EcoXpert™.
Adherence to the regulatory requirements of the Joint Commission, the organization that accredits more than 21,000 US healthcare organizations, can impact the reputation and resulting success of most hospitals and health clinics. Making an effort to maintain or exceed requirements is a sound strategy not only for enhancing the comfort and safety of patients, staff, and visitors, but also for increasing the net worth of an institution and for preparing, in advance, for future regulations that may become more stringent.
With an uptick in mergers, affiliations, and integrations, how well a facility achieves or exceeds compliance can make or break a deal. As part of due diligence, hospitals need to evaluate the regulatory compliance of the practice or provider they are looking to acquire. Otherwise, hospitals may be taking on potential liability.
Regulatory compliance, particularly in the area of safety, can be complex to track and fulfill. Consider the work involved in simply determining whether a large hospital’s fire extinguishers are up-to-date and are not damaged or expired. The facility is required, every month, at a minimum, to inspect and update the conditions of their inventory of fire extinguishers. If each extinguisher has three annual inspection tags (representing the last three years of inspections) and the building has 1,000 extinguishers, then 3,000 tags need to be stored and organized. The work of sifting through these tags and organizing them in order to meet Joint Commission compliance can be overwhelming. A much easier way is to update fire extinguisher status dynamically, using a properly configured building management system, which can then produce an instantaneous report. Such a digital solution is more productive and much easier to manage.
Building automation both simplifies facility compliance and generates energy cost savings
When achieving Joint Commission compliance, fire extinguishers are only the tip of the iceberg. For example, air quality, which encompasses air humidity, temperature, particulate concentrations, ventilation, and air pressure (how fast the air moves through a room) is critical in a connected hospital environment. An unoccupied surgical room is required to process six air changes per hour. Then, just prior to surgery (and during surgery), the air change rate needs to accelerate to 24 air changes per hour. Records surrounding air change data must be meticulously maintained in order to produce reports that meet Joint Commission requirements. In this way, healthcare facilities are protected from possible court litigation.
As a Schneider Electric EcoXpert, our company Wadsworth Solutions supports healthcare institutions as a technology systems integrator. Integration implies the interoperability of multiple systems that don’t necessarily speak the same language. We harmonize these systems using Modbus, BACnet, LonWorks, and OPC protocols to link diverse technologies that help drive timely decisions. We are unique in the marketplace because our integrations impact multiple areas which greatly influence both health care facility compliance and energy savings:
- Business automation designed around compliance simplifies accreditation – The right integrations now make it possible to embed the tracking and documentation of healthcare facility compliance requirements within the building automation. Our self-designed Healthcare Software Suite pinpoints and monitors those areas particular to building safety requirements. In addition to surgical suites and lab systems that refrigerate blood samples and vaccines, everything from a fire damper to an eyewash station, to a fire extinguisher to an exit sign is accounted for. The building automation system is then converted into a building management system and produces the dynamic reports required to achieve and maintain Joint Commission accreditation.
- Just-in-time control of precision HVAC systems drives energy savings – To comply with Joint Commission standards and other regulations governing ventilation, organizations should audit their HVAC systems. The Joint Commission encourages measures that keep systems energy efficient while minimizing human safety risk. One of the ways modern building automation systems help keep healthcare facilities both safe, energy efficient, and compliant with regulations is through high-precision control of ventilation and air conditioning. By controlling just-in-time occupancy per surgical suite so that air changes are rapidly accelerated only when required, for example, significant amounts of energy are saved. Performing such tasks in the continuous flow of just-in-time processing requires systems capabilities that allow rapid switching from one task to another, in a carefully scheduled sequence. The ability to track which rooms are occupied and to control temperatures, humidity, and pressures depending upon the status of the room is another example of how energy savings are being generated. Smart energy sensors that detect motion and temperature also help in the efforts to more efficiently control hospital room environments.
- Predictive failure capabilities enable operational continuity improvements – Part of healthcare safety as mandated by the Joint Commission is to maintain the integrity of critical supplies that are administered to patients like blood, tissue, plasma and vaccines. Hospital lab administrators need to be alerted to possible lab room abnormalities which could indicate the initial stages of a compressor or refrigeration unit failure. When pre-set temperature parameters are breached, early alerts allow for corrective action to be taken before lab blood, plasma, and tissue samples or vaccines become tainted. An undetected loss of one small freezer of vaccines alone, for example, can cost a hospital $50,000. A building management system that enables predictive modeling can save a hospital system hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in both compliance-related and unplanned equipment failure cost avoidance.
Such improvements to building automation systems are now possible thanks in part to open technology platforms, like Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure solutions, that allow for easy integration of facility technology systems at the intelligent device, edge control and software and analytics layers. Now healthcare institutions, through better integrated technologies, can benefit from much simpler and more accurate ways for attaining Joint Commission accreditation.