Wasted time and energy: The unnecessary burden on hospitals

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Hospitals never close. Employees, patients, and visitors come in and out 24/7. The power driving that constant activity must be reliable and always on. Not only must hospitals provide essential medical and health functions, they also power other high-energy operations:

  • food service
  • laundry service
  • computer and server systems
  • sterilization and refrigeration services
  • lab and research facilities
  • HVAC systems

With this much energy consumption, it’s easy to see how inattention to energy efficiency can drain facility operating budgets. Hospital operating margins are slim already. The American Hospital Association 2016 TrendWatch reports that aggregate operating margins are 6.4%, while nearly one-third (29.9%) of hospitals have negative operating margins. When budgets are tight, inefficient energy use is a drain on operational efficiency.

Energy resources are not the only high consumption item in a hospital; so are human resources. Because hospitals are open 24/7, that means clinical, maintenance, and housekeeping staff work around the clock too. In most businesses, a tight operating budget drives staff and service reductions. In hospitals, that’s not an option since reduced staffing can create a decline in patient care.

How do inefficient staff and energy management exhaust hospital resources?

  • Many hospitals suffer from wasted energy in unoccupied rooms, meaning the temperature control and lighting control in each room is set for occupancy even if the room is unoccupied or rarely used. Facility managers recognize this energy waste, but they lack the staff to manually reduce temperatures or turn off lights in unoccupied rooms.
  • Maintenance and housekeeping staffs can only do their work when rooms are vacant or unoccupied. Without an easy way to tell when a room is empty, staff must guess when rooms are unused so they can do their work. This may require checking on a room several times before work can actually begin.
  • Nurses spend years training to deliver specialized patient care. Yet too frequently they are pulled away from critical care to answer more mundane patient requests about room temperature control, lighting control, and even TV volume. Without patient self-service options over these controls, the operational efficiency and likely the job satisfaction of the nursing staff falls.

What is the solution?

The solution is using the data already available. There are two powerful systems inside today’s hospital facility. One is the building management system (BMS). The BMS monitors and controls the building systems. The other critical hospital system is the admission, discharge, and transfer (ADT) system. This system tracks the ever-changing patient population inside a hospital.

Inefficiency occurs because these two systems don’t communicate. The solution lies in sharing information from the BMS and ADT through a Health Level-7 (HL7) interface. Schneider Electric’s Clinical Environment Optimization solution is the middleware that creates this solution.

Delivered as an application for Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Building Operation software
(formerly known as StruxureWare Building Operation), the solution integrates hospitals’ clinical infrastructure (the ADT) with its facility infrastructure (the BMS). The integration works because of Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure for Healthcare IoT platform, which built to enable open, flexible integration with third-party systems and devices.

Through simple information sharing between systems, hospitals can reduce energy spend. The Clinical Environment Optimization solution shares patient room or operating theater occupancy status with the BMS. The BMS uses that information to set rooms to predetermined HVAC and lighting settings depending on if the room is vacant or occupied.

This same solution can alert maintenance and housekeeping staff of a room’s occupancy. This way, staff know when they can schedule work in patient rooms, making them far more productive. There’s also an option for patients to manage their room temperature and light control settings through a mobile app. This drives greater patient satisfaction and keeps nurse attention focused on patient care.

When the BMS and ADT communicate, hospitals can both reduce operating costs and deliver better patient care. The result empowers healthcare facility managers to make smarter decisions about their energy use. Learn how Schneider Electric’s Clinical Environment Optimization can transform energy and operational efficiency in your hospital.

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