A healthcare setting is a great example of an environment that can’t afford to suffer disruptions. Consider a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, which is important in not only the treatment of patients but to the revenue stream of the institution. Should it go down, it would jeopardize patient satisfaction as well as income.
Even a small healthcare facility with a single MRI machine may perform some 6,000 scans per year, while a major medical center with several machines may perform 18,000 scans annually. At a cost of around $2,600 per scan, that represents a major source of revenue in both settings. Beyond the revenue stream, each scan is an opportunity to provide a valuable service for the patient. But if the machine fails for any reason, or a machine is down and scans must be rescheduled, it can also be a major hit to patient satisfaction.
MRI machine cooling puts premium on redundancy
It takes specialized expertise to ensure the 24×7 operation of an MRI machine to avoid such a fate. Cooling requirements, for example, are challenging to say the least.
To ensure proper operation and accurate imaging, the magnet at the heart of an MRI machine must be maintained at the ultra-low temperature of 4 Kelvin, which is -270°C. That’s accomplished using liquid helium, which is cooled using a specialized compressor unit called a cryocooler. Another series of coils and heat exchangers is used to cool the cryocooler, which is crucial because if the temperature of the helium rises, the machine could overheat. Without cooling, within a few hours all the helium will vaporize and leak out through the safety valves, after which the magnet will suffer irreparable damage. Helium recharges costs tens of thousands of dollars while the loss of the magnet can drive the capital loss into the millions.
A typical MRI cooling system relies on a dedicated chilled water system to supply the cold water that cools the various components of the MRI machine, including the cryocooler. Should the chiller be taken down for maintenance or in the unlikely event it suffers a fault, the cooling system must be able to use an alternate water supply, namely city water.
A system like the Schneider Electric MRI “all in one” cooling solution couples a highly reliable chiller and a packaged hydronic kit. Imagine the hydronic kit as a black box connected to chiller and city water on one end, and to the cryocooler on the other end. If the chiller is at fault, the box will automatically switch to city water to cool the cryocooler indirectly, through a heat exchanger. In case of a water pump failure, city water can flow directly to the cryocooler, with the city water pressure doing the job of circulating the water. That level of redundancy brings the risk of an MRI cooling failure close to zero.
How IOT and big data improve MRI cooling reliability
Having two backup options is the kind of cushion you need in a critical facility such as a hospital. Another is the ability to continually gather data on the status of all equipment involved in the MRI cooling process.
This involves instrumenting various components of the MRI infrastructure such that they can report status and health data to a centralized management platform. There, diagnostic algorithms examine the data to identify anything that may be out of the norm, indicating a component that is in need of attention.
That’s essentially what solutions like Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure do, in the process enabling predictive maintenance, so healthcare providers (or, more likely, a solution provider) can address any issues before an unexpected failure occurs. In short, that means greater MRI machine reliability and less downtime.
For service providers, such a valuable maintenance program can also be a source of recurring revenue, probably one that’s of far greater value in the long term than the initial MRI cooling system sale.
Cooling an MRI machine, with a magnet that must be maintained at nearly unfathomably low temperatures, is an extreme example of cooling technology, and one that requires careful monitoring to keep a constant, intelligent eye on it all and to deliver the level of reliability that keeps customer satisfaction high and protects hospital revenue and capital investments.
Learn More about Schneider Electric EcoStruxure Offerings
Visit the EcoStruxure for Healthcare page to learn more about how to address requirements ranging from operational efficiency and security to patient safety and satisfaction. You’ll find resources including white papers, videos, blog posts and case studies to help ensure your hospital thrives at every level, from the emergency room to the executive suite.