Ensuring Patient Safety Through Smart Power Management

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In my last blog post, I took a look at how the newest power management solutions are helping healthcare facilities address financial challenges like energy and maintenance costs, as well as meet regulatory requirements. In this post I’d like to look at another top concern of healthcare executives: patient safety.

While the healthcare motto is “First, do no harm,” the World Health Organization estimates that “in developed countries, as many as 1 patient in 10 is harmed while receiving hospital care.” Though there are a variety of causes behind this statistic, a facility’s electrical supply can be a contributing factor. For medium and large hospitals as well as smaller outpatient facilities, 24/7 power and data availability are critical. Power availability is a matter of life or death in the hospital environment. To help ensure safe and reliable power for patient and staff well-being, it’s important to safeguard against risks and find issues fast before problems occur.

Beyond improving operational and energy efficiency, intelligent power management systems are helping facility teams reduce power-related patient risk. Using a combination of connected smart devices, on site monitoring, analytic apps, and services, they address three key dimensions of safety: power availability, eliminating electric shocks, and fire prevention.

Ensuring power continuity
Reliable power starts with an intelligent power infrastructure that’s designed, tested and validated specifically for healthcare facilities. Important parts of this are smart circuit breakers, protecting against short circuits or ground faults. Special discrimination and control intelligence makes sure that the impacts of faults are minimized.

All breakers are networked over a real-time communication network, such that in the event of a fault the power management system will know to take immediate action by running backup power, bypassing faults, or shedding non critical loads, as necessary.

The entire electrical distribution system is centrally monitored, helping teams quickly locate issues. Mobile device apps can also provide assistance to speed restoration. A power management system’s advanced analytics can help isolate root causes so the facility team can take action to avoid reoccurrences.

Power quality-related issues can cause equipment malfunctions, premature failures, or unwanted breaker trips. To address this, some power management systems offer simple Power Quality (PQ) indicators that flag potential problems. Further analysis will reveal the specific cause of the issue, helping guide selection of correction equipment to help avoid future risks to uptime.

As noted in my previous post, periodic testing of backup systems (including genset, UPS, ATS) are mandatory to reduce risks of a complete outage in case of a utilities failure. Power management systems that include automated backup system testing as an option can significantly simplify this process.

Eliminating shocks in the operating room
In operating rooms, ground faults in medical equipment can be lethal for the patient. In addition to specific breakers on all critical circuits, power management systems should include insulation monitoring systems.

The system will set off an alarm to inform maintenance and medical personnel in the event of an electrical fault in the operating room. It also monitors the operating room environment, records all environmental events and data, and will typically provide customized reports to prove event traceability. These solutions are designed to be fully compliant with operating room requirements, and fully tested for high reliability.

Reducing risk of fire
As healthcare facilities host injured and sick people with often reduced mobility capabilities, a fire can have catastrophic implications. But fires still occur and electricity is still one of the leading causes. The primary culprits of fire are circuit overheating, aging or faulty connections, and arcing.

Thermal monitoring can now be integrated within a power management system. The system will deliver thermal pre-alarms to facility teams before equipment reaches temperature limits. This early detection can help reduce the risk of fire, as well as save on the costs of annual thermographic surveys.

In addition, a fast arc detection solution can be included. Protection units use optical detection to identify an arc flash, immediately tripping the feeding circuit breakers. This helps reinforce safety for staff as well as reducing the risk of equipment damage and, in turn, reducing downtime.

Services take safety further
Beyond having a reliable electrical infrastructure with comprehensive monitoring and analysis tools at hand, remote services can help optimize safety further. A contracted service team can connect to, and watch over, your critical facility assets on a full-time basis.

Field services experts will give proactive and tailored recommendations to ensure reliability and reduced risk, while also helping improving asset performance and optimizing maintenance costs. This can include performing audits on electrical distribution safety and availability.

As part of EcoStruxure™ for Healthcare, the EcoStruxure Power solution from Schneider Electric is a complete power management system that is fully integrated with Schneider Electric solutions for Healthcare. The combined solution helps Healthcare teams build, operate, and maintain their facilities in a more efficient and cost-effective way while ensuring regulatory compliance and patient safety.

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