Hospitals and medical centers are among the most “mission-critical” industry sectors. Their power supply must be extremely reliable and their systems must work well together because these facilities are protecting and saving human lives every minute of each day.
Because of the mission-critical nature of hospitals, they must have excellent disaster recovery procedures and safe guards in place. Healthcare facilities use many solutions to protect against disasters and outages, such as generators and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) products, but generally speaking, there is no single product or procedure that protects an entire hospital. Instead, there are layers of protection, redundant systems in the most critical areas of the hospital, and multiple procedures, standards, and rules to follow, such as regulations that govern regular (usually monthly) testing of generators. In the event of actual damage from disasters, there are also many important factors to consider on how to fully restore all systems, as explained in this white paper.
But there is one factor—perhaps best thought of as an over-arching approach—that ensures a hospital’s systems work well together and are highly reliable. This factor is taking a holistic approach to facility design. Very early on the design cycle, before individual systems are specified and put out to bid, it’s important to think about how the various systems will work together, communicate, and can be best monitored and managed for goals like energy efficiency and high availability.
At Schneider Electric, we think of this integrated, holistic approach as design partnering. Essentially, the consulting engineers or hospital investors/owners need a design partner whose expertise spans multiple domains of facility, power, and information technology (IT) knowledge. Schneider Electric is taking on this design partner role in the healthcare market, working with facility owners and designers to establish an optimal architecture in which the various systems work well together. The end result is what we term a “hospital intelligent infrastructure,” discussed in more length in this brochure.
The problem with traditional facility design approaches is that systems for a hospital tend to be designed, specified, and put out for bid in a piecemeal fashion. The goal of these traditional practices is to lower the costs through competitive bidding, but if the approach is too piecemeal, and doesn’t take into account interoperability and operational effectiveness, you end up with systems that don’t work together in an optimal way.
As part of our design partnering approach to the healthcare industry, we consider how all the key systems in a hospital interact and support each other. This includes the electrical architecture, the building management system, the heating, ventilation and cooling controls, lighting systems, the data center and hospital information system, security cameras and access control systems, medical equipment and modalities, and specialized systems for critical areas such as operating theaters.
Under the design partner approach that Schneider Electric uses in the health care market, we can provide a reference design that is generic (not based on one particular manufacturer), follows regulations and industry standards, and provides for interoperation between systems as deemed appropriate to the project. This approach sets a strong foundation for operational goals such as energy savings, or for how to best protect systems in the event of outages or disasters.
Of course, it’s also important for disaster recovery to have the right UPS products incorporated into a facility design. In hospitals, some areas such as operating theaters and intensive care units are so critical that redundant systems are needed, as well as UPSs with a high degree of fault tolerance. Other areas of the hospital, such as storage rooms, cafeterias, etc., do not have any criticality level and can be directly connected to the electrical network.
To sum up, disaster recovery is a complex issue in the healthcare market. There are standards and codes to follow that may be country specific, systems that need to be monitored and controlled in an integrated way, and also procedures and mandated tests to follow. The best time to start thinking about all these concerns is at the early stages of the facility design cycle.
To find out more about Schneider Electric’s Secure Power offering for the healthcare industry, check out this brochure or contact your Schneider Electric representative. To learn more about the company’s overall solutions for the healthcare industry, visit this page.