Smart Power Management is Making Healthcare Facilities More Efficient

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A 2016 survey of healthcare executives revealed that financial challenges, government mandates, and patient safety continue to be top concerns. Further, 56% felt they needed to reduce operating costs. This is hardly surprising as hospitals and medical centers of all kinds are facing rising costs and growing demand with fewer resources.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the first two concerns. Financial challenges often include the need to improve operational efficiency, to help reduce the cost of labor, maintenance, and energy. In fact when we consider the complete lifecycle costs of a hospital, development and design typically accounts for only 25%, while costs over a facility’s operational period account for a massive 75%.

As far as government mandates, hospitals are the second most regulated industry after nuclear. They are also the most complex buildings to build and operate. So complying with regulatory requirements often means spending a significant amount of time and money to make sure the doors stay open.

A tailored, integrated solution
Intelligent power management solutions for healthcare environments offer facility teams the tools needed to improve operational and energy efficiency, while maximizing power availability performance.

The newest solutions are highly customized and integrated, including a wide scope of connected products, on site monitoring, and analytics, apps, and services in the cloud. Advanced IoT-enabled architectures include a smart power distribution network as well as a real-time digital communications network. Investing in such smart solutions as part of the initial infrastructure design can translate to big savings in operational costs throughout the facility’s lifetime.

Improving operational efficiency
When considering just the energy part of the equation, healthcare facilities are the second most energy intensive type of buildings, and energy costs are increasing. Finding ways to reduce consumption will not only help cut costs and ease pressure on operating budgets, it can also support mandated sustainability goals regarding equivalent energy-related emissions. This, in turn, can help to boost the ‘green’ image of the facility.

An intelligent power management system provides a range of effective tools for getting energy costs under control. A system will identify billing errors as well as identify opportunities to cut costs through better rates or by managing power factor or peak demand. Allocating or sub-billing costs to departments or tenants, respectively, can help more energy-efficient behavior and recover energy costs.

Analyzing energy use can reveal inefficient equipment, as well as helping build a complete energy action plan by forecasting needs, setting baselines and efficiency targets, and tracking progress. Some strategies may include intelligent load management. For example, laundry can be rescheduled to lower tariff periods, or HVAC settings can be optimized to ramp up heating earlier to avoid typically high-tariff morning periods.

Reducing maintenance costs
With the proper tools and processes, maintenance costs can be reduced by up to 30%. This will make more efficient use of the facility’s OPEX budget, with savings reallocated to other initiatives. The newest power management systems help maintenance teams avoid equipment failures and repair costs by monitoring every aspect of electrical asset performance. This includes tracking circuits throughout the facility to avoid faulty conditions such as overload and overheating which can also help extend asset life. UPS batteries and backup generators are also carefully monitored to ensure reliability.

Maintenance efficiency is further improved through online tools that simplify maintenance scheduling, spare parts management, and monitoring of electrical equipment conditions. Not only will maintenance teams receive early warnings of any potential issues, but equipment conditions can also drive predictive, condition-based maintenance routines. This will help teams focus work on the assets that need it, reducing unnecessary time and costs. The University of Rochester Medical Center has saved nearly $1 million through predictive maintenance and early discovery of equipment problems.

An example of recent innovations in this area including circuit breaker aging analysis. A breaker’s health is determined based on number of operations, electrical data, and environmental conditions. This insight ensures only the appropriate level of maintenance is performed to keep a breaker operating at top performance. This helps improve uptime and extend breaker life, but can also reduce servicing time.

Simplifying compliance
Understanding the impact of regulations and ensuring compliance are key to keeping a hospital running. Beyond automated backup system testing, power management solutions help staff deal with all compliance activities more efficiently. Services and training are available that help facility teams better understand the newest standards and the steps required to comply with them. Some solution providers also offer ‘reference architectures’ for different sizes of facilities that ensure that the electrical distribution system will comply with all standards.

The most comprehensive power management solutions will also offer greenhouse gas reporting, tracking and reporting on carbon emissions to support regulatory compliance and renewable energy certificates. In addition, benchmarking tools can be used to compare the energy performance of similar facilities, helping reveal further opportunities to improve efficiency.

As part of EcoStruxure™ for Healthcare, the EcoStruxure Power solution from Schneider Electric is an example of an integrated power management solution specifically tailored to the needs of medium and large hospitals as well as smaller outpatient facilities. From connected devices to edge control, apps and services, the solution helps Healthcare providers teams build, operate, and maintain their facilities in a more efficient and cost-effective way while ensuring regulatory compliance. The next post will discuss another top concern of healthcare executives: patient safety.

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