Smart electrification for smart hospitals

ABB Australia Pty Ltd
By Ian Richardson, Building Solutions Technical Specialist, ABB Australia
Tuesday, 01 March, 2022

Florence Nightingale is regarded as the founder of modern nursing, gaining prominence as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War. One of her notable quotes was “The very first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm”.

Hospitals are complex installations utilising multiple applications that must work flawlessly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Electrical supply availability supports operational continuity, and this is especially crucial in emergency rooms, intensive care units and operating theatres, where supply interruptions can be a matter of life and death.

The ability to ensure supply continuity in hospitals can be a big challenge, requiring deep knowledge of correct installation practices and devices that can ensure uninterrupted service and a healthy environment. Guidance can be found in standards such as AS/NZS 3003, Electrical installations – Patient areas, IEC 60364-7-710, Electrical installations of buildings – Requirements for special installations or locations – Medical locations, and in publications such as the Australasian Health Facilities Guidelines produced by the Australasian Health Infrastructure Alliance, as well as the state-based guidelines published by the respective health departments of New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.

A modern hospital or healthcare facility is not an ordinary building environment, it is a place of healing, where care is provided to patients to improve their health. The building must not only provide the security of a reliable electrical supply ensuring service continuity, but it also has a role to play in the care of the patients, staff, and visitors.

The central nervous system for the most resilient healthcare facilities

The electrical system of a hospital or health care facility could be described as the central nervous system of the building. Of paramount importance is delivering the most effective outcomes for patients. To achieve this, a modern healthcare facility must maintain an environment where power resource-intensive medical treatments can be provided with efficiency and reliability, yet still meet the sustainability goals of the facility.

Meeting these specific demands requires a holistic approach to understand the facility’s individual needs, as well as providing the right mix of technology working seamlessly together to deliver the required outcomes. The building infrastructure needs to be smart. A smart building has become a widespread phrase used to define the needs of a modern building. In this context we could say a hospital or healthcare facility needs to be a smarter building, due to the critical nature of the use of the building.

Smart solutions combine reliability, efficiency and safety

The first aspect of the smart hospital seen by staff, patients and visitors can be the building automation system. While automated to the needs of the hospital, an automation system such as ABB i-bus KNX can reduce staff workload through the automation of core functions such as lighting, shutter and blind control, heating, ventilation, security, and energy management. Patient rooms can be automatically configured to respond to individual needs such as light intensity, sunshine glare and optimal climate.

A smarter hospital can become an active player in optimising the health of those in its care. The automatic adjusting of lighting intensity can assist staff working overnight to stay more alert. Lighting in pharmacies can be optimised for colour discrimination, a crucial aspect for dispensing medicines. Emergency lighting luminaires and systems provide clear instruction and help minimise injuries in high-risk and emergency evacuation situations. Periodic maintenance and testing of emergency luminaires according to Australian standards can be performed remotely without interruption to the safe operation of the facility.

The smarter hospital can help manage the quality of the air we breathe by measuring the CO2 in the atmosphere or creating positive pressure rooms for immunocompromised patients. The HVAC system can account for up to 50% of the operational costs of the building, so energy efficiency measures in this area are paramount. Using high efficiency drives in the HVAC system combined with ABB i-bus KNX building automation controls to manage the area environment according to occupancy, specific use, and comfort requirements, can all contribute to increased cost savings.

Digital solutions can provide healthcare facilities with new levels of energy management. Systems such as ABB Ability Energy and Asset Manager offer a state-of-the-art solution that can integrate energy and asset management in a single intuitive dashboard. This tool allows building managers to view, manage and optimise building systems from anywhere, at any time. Predictive, condition-based maintenance can be implemented to ensure reliability and availability of the healthcare facility’s power system and equipment. In addition, real-time monitoring of energy usage can achieve maximum energy efficiency and lower costs.

The smarter hospital can have an active role in improving patient health. Patients can enjoy a more personalised experience with greater comfort. The often complex and high-risk procedures undertaken can be performed in safer, more reliable surroundings protecting both patients and staff. For the business side of the hospital, improved asset management is achieved through predictive maintenance, reducing catastrophic failures and down-time. Network resilience can be seen from power supplies that are uninterrupted even during power grid outages. Finally, intelligent data analysis delivers efficiencies and cost savings, confirming the return on investment of the facility.

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