While the healthcare industry is slow to adopt new technology, COVID-19 has made healthcare re-prioritize the use of building automation. Marking a new era in healthcare automation, the demand of building automation or controlled features is now being seriously considered by both newly constructed hospitals as well as to install or integrate them into existing buildings, if allowed for an element of reconstruction or renovation.
While designing hospitals or renovating existing hospitals, we will take a look at some of the components of a smart building system, outlining the latest innovations for each.
Recent advances in healthcare automation have been in the areas of specialized dashboard interfaces for monitoring critical facilities areas, integration of patient-scheduling software, and specialized interfaces for such nontraditional Building Automated System (BAS) users as patients and nurses who need to be able to quickly adjust to conditions in occupied areas.
Facilities managers now have the tools to automate the process of collecting this data, archiving it and emailing it to whomever needs it. This is more evident in hospitals where the BAS is being used to generate reports for Joint Commission compliance.
Compliance and clinical accountability are also driving innovation in healthcare automation as healthcare requirements evolve and cloud-based solutions are also integrated into some BASs for energy management and other critical building systems.
ENERGY MANAGEMENT: Building automation – a sunrise area in hospital automation - enables facilities managers to schedule the adjustment of heating and lighting according to usage requirements, which is one way to simultaneously reduce costs and a facility’s carbon footprint. Where employed, energy management technologies have proven successful in scaling back non-critical equipment operations when patient traffic is low. The ability to modulate airflow, lighting, and administrative operations such as scheduling can generate significant cost savings annually.
HVAC: Patient comfort – a prime goal area when it comes to healthcare automation - is a key factor in HVAC selection, but it is sometimes difficult to regulate temperature throughout a large hospital. The use of smart sensors in building automation allows zone control, which can be made cooler for storage areas and operating rooms, and adjusted, according to the outside temperature for patient areas. Prior to any design, it is important to understand the space use, the procedures to be performed and the number of patients who will receive treatment at any given time. This information helps to determine the HVAC design parameters for the project.
Security and Emergency Response: Security is of critical importance to healthcare facilities and, not surprisingly, a priority zone in healthcare automation. Every aspect of building automation must be secure from hackers, given the value of data contained on the premises. In addition, the safety of patients and staff must be considered, and hospitals must also prevent theft of drugs and equipment. Emergency and evacuation procedures are yet another area of concern, and is being equally addressed by recent trends in healthcare automation. It is fair to say that this area cannot be neglected. The items listed below also have common functions for day-to-day operations, but are especially important in controlling—or eliminating—security issues.
• Access Control and Visitor Management
• Video Surveillance
• Intercom services and Mass Instant Communications and Notifications
• Fire Systems
While wireless is a less intrusive option when adding building automation to a healthcare facility, many prefer the stability of standard cabling, i.e. CAT 5. However, fiber optic is becoming more common, and ways to hide cabling are also becoming more innovative. In addition, cabling in healthcare must comply with the TIA-1179 Healthcare Infrastructure Standard. This standard supports clinical information systems (CIS). One example of CIS in action is the movement toward electronic health records (EHRs), a trend that is strongly encouraged and supported by the governments of the U.S., Canada and other countries as a means to reduce administrative time and costs, streamline information flow and improve the safety and accountability of national healthcare systems and the patients they serve. Other examples include diagnostic imaging, picture archiving, communication systems, order-entry systems and patient monitoring systems.
Other focus zones of healthcare automation are:
1.Patient Room Automation: Smart App (or Remote) that allows patients to control all aspects of the patient room, which includes lighting, AC, Curtain/Blinds, TV/DTH and integrated nurse call abilities
2. Nurse Call Systems: Centralized Nurse Station Kiosks, and Smart Apps enable monitoring of patient call buttons. Wireless and wired call buttons along with pull cords provide multiple deployment options with Data analytics of call response helps in planning
3. Wireless Motion Sensor Control of Lighting & AC’s: Wireless Motion Sensors and Switch Nodes can be used to ensure that lights, fans, exhaust fans or any energy devices are turned ON/OFF based on motion sensed in aisles, waiting areas, doctor offices and examination rooms. Wireless daylight sensors further help.
4. Conference Room Automation: Smart App based control of all conference room features – lighting, AC, blinds, projector/projector screens and more. Also, allows for conference room reservation via Smart App.
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