The coronavirus pandemic is fundamentally changing how we all live, work, and play. From socializing to education to work, every major realm of life is going digital, in some cases, indefinitely. In healthcare, digitization’s impact will extend far beyond telehealth and electronic medical records.
Healthcare infrastructure — power distribution, IT backbones, and HVAC systems — is also a key candidate for digital transformation. Before the pandemic, there was already a growing industry shift toward holistically managing these disparate systems under a single IoT-enabled umbrella. Now, industry adoption of this centralized “system of systems” will likely accelerate, due to four core benefits:
Benefit #1: Proactive digital maintenance for better business continuity
Even during business as usual, unexpected maintenance issues can keep hospital managers stuck putting out fires instead of preventing them. When you’re facing a surge in patients, the last thing you want is downtime, especially when it’s caused by routine issues.
The best way to avoid this situation is to gain the ability to anticipate the future. Software analytics, paired with our engineers, crunch building management system (BMS) and power distribution system data to notify you of issues like leaky valves or failing circuit breakers — before they cause downtime. With newfound visibility and control over your facility’s infrastructure, your team can focus on high-value work and strengthen business continuity.
Another key to proactive maintenance is remote monitoring. Your staff can monitor from home, paying virtual “doctor’s visits” to check on the health of your infrastructure. It’s like telehealth, but for your facility’s infrastructure.
Benefit #2: Boost patient satisfaction with more digital control
Another key benefit of digitization is that it enhances patient satisfaction. With digital BMSs, you can give patients control over room temperature, lighting, and nurse calls. They can adjust their settings from a tablet or phone, without needing to rely on your staff. That frees up providers to focus on care while empowering your patients to feel more at home.
Benefit #3: Find previously invisible operational inefficiencies
Many hospitals are now striving to reduce costs in the wake of the pandemic. Energy use is a sensible target. According to the ENERGY STAR® program, a non-profit hospital saving $1 on energy costs is equivalent to $20 of new revenue — i.e., saving energy has a multiplier effect.
Digitization is a key efficiency enabler. By monitoring your facility’s systems down to the device level, and running that data through cloud analytics, you’ll spot previously invisible inefficiencies like IT hotspots or expiring batteries. These software tools generate recommendations ranked by how much you’ll save, so you and your team can decide where to spend your time.
Benefit #4: Leverage unique funding opportunities to modernize
As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.” In challenging times, it’s worth considering creative funding approaches that drive digitization.
One strategy is to harness energy performance contracting, which provides capital funds to critical access hospitals. These funds can be used for energy efficiency projects such as equipment modernization and digital tools for energy monitoring. The cost savings can partially offset the investment, while you reap the rewards for years to come.
Another strategy is the energy-as-a-service funding model for microgrids. Microgrids are an increasingly popular back-up power solution for hospitals and other critical sites, and they also accelerate renewable energy adoption. With energy-as-a-service, you lease a microgrid for zero upfront cost while leaving installation and maintenance to the experts, allowing you to focus on your core mission. With digital management tools, microgrids have the added benefit of allowing you to keep your energy prices stable.
How to digitize your healthcare facility
The tool that makes all this interconnectivity possible is the EcoStruxure™ for Healthcare architecture. EcoStruxure is the open-source, IoT-enabled glue that binds your facility’s many systems (including third-party devices) under one integrated dashboard. From that single pane of glass, you can drive business continuity, enhance patient comfort, and reduce operational inefficiency.
To see how the Pavilion at Penn Medicine uses EcoStruxure for Healthcare to achieve these outcomes, watch this video.