The role of device level control in hospitals

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You go to a hospital to get better.

However, in reality hospitals make many patients sicker – sometimes fatally so. According to the Centers for Disease Control, hospital acquired infections affected nearly three quarter of a million patients and killed about 75,000 of them in the United States in 2014.

Since hospital acquired infections are preventable, there’s been a major focus on addressing the problem. The good news is the CDC reports there have been 10+ percent decreases in various infection categories over the last few years. In some cases, like bloodstream infections, the rate has been cut in half.

Fortunately, there are ways to drive the infection rate and other adverse outcomes even lower. Device level control products like sensors, valves and actuators play a critical role in this. They are the first line of defense in a hospital’s Building Management System. They deliver critical information on changes in the physical environment. Then steps can be taken to correct any issues.

For instance, getting fresh air, as your mother always told you, is healthy. In a hospital context, this means getting a recommended number of air exchanges per hour, which can range from a low of two in a public corridor to a high of 25 in an operating room. For some locations, like an operating room, the pressure should be positive in relationship to nearby areas. For others, like a public corridor, the pressure should be negative. There are also standards about the relative humidity.

Those are the healthcare recommendations. Since we live in the real world, however, meeting those requirements can be tough. People move in and out of locations, so the load varies by time of day, day of the week, and the season.

What’s more, it isn’t as if you can just set a thermostat or any other building management control device and then forget it. There are other constraints to consider. For instance, energy conservation and greenhouse gas emission reductions dictate that air exchanges not be excessive. Bringing in unneeded outside air is a good way to send energy – and money – out with the air being exchanged.

But, with sensors sampling the amount of CO2 in the air and valves helping to bring in fresh outside air, there are steps that can be taken to make it all work.

  • Automatically monitor and maintain humidity, ventilation, air pressure and HEPA filters
  • Ensure temperature and humidity control to maintain patient comfort and prevent the growth of mold, fungi and bacteria.

For example, a properly designed intelligent infrastructure will have the appropriate sensors and valves to monitor critical systems and conditions in a hospital. With that you can

  • Reduce infections by electronically monitoring hand hygiene
  • Install passive infrared light switching and surfaces that limit transmission of germs

As an added bonus, intelligent infrastructure can also help increase patient and staff safety through better security. Cameras and sensors can help ensure that patients are safe in their rooms and staff is better protected against assault. Assault and other crimes can pose a significant health risk. For instance, the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety reported that there are 2+ violent crimes per 100 beds in U.S. hospitals.

So, an intelligent infrastructure based upon the right sensors, valves and actuators can improve patient health in a number of ways. It can cut down on hospital acquired infections. And it can make patients and staff safer.

For more information, check out our free white paper, “The Human Hospital How to Create an Autonomic Nervous System for Your Facility.”

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