A matter of life and death: how smart power management keeps patients safe

June 21, 2018 by Christopher Needham, healthcare solutions lead, global operations at Schneider Electric
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A matter of life and death: how smart power management keeps patients safe

While the healthcare profession’s motto is ‘Do no harm’, the World Health Organisation estimates that as many as 10 per cent of patients may come to harm while receiving hospital care in developed countries.

Though there are a variety of causes behind this statistics but for the non-clinical causes a hospital’s electrical supply can be a significant contributing factor. For medium and large hospitals, as well as smaller outpatient facilities, 24/7 power and data availability are critical. Indeed, power availability could be a matter of life or death in the hospital environment. To help to ensure safe and reliable power for patient and staff well-being, maintain business as usual and to safeguard against risks it is imperative to identify issues before problems occur, or return normal service if they do.
Beyond improving operational and energy efficiency, intelligent power management systems are helping facility teams to 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 minimised.
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 up 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 indicators that flag potential problems. Further analysis can then reveal the specific cause of the issue, helping guide the selection of correction equipment in order to help avoid future risks to uptime.
The 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 isolated power supplies and insulation monitoring systems.
The Schneider Electric Operating Room 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 customised reports to prove event traceability. These solutions are designed to be fully compliant with operating room requirements, and fully tested for high reliability.

Fighting the risk of fire

As healthcare facilities host injured and sick people with often reduced mobility capabilities, a fire can have catastrophic implications, and electricity is still one of the leading causes. The primary culprits are circuit overheating, aging or faulty connections, and arcing.
In order to reduce the risk of fire, continuous thermal monitoring can 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.

Taking safety further

Beyond having a reliable electrical infrastructure with comprehensive monitoring and analysis tools at hand, remote services can help optimise safety further. A team of electrical and building controls experts can connect to, and watch over, critical facility assets on a full-time basis.
Those same field services experts will give proactive and tailored recommendations to ensure reliability and reduced risk, while also helping improving asset performance and optimising maintenance costs. This can include performing audits on electrical distribution safety and availability.

 

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