Integrating Technology

Smart Buildings 1

Smart hospitals: Integrating smart technology for better healthcare.

 

By Fadi Kiameh

Implementing smart technology is a positive project for any building or facility, and it’s especially powerful in the healthcare space. Integrated technologies can not only improve the building environment but simultaneously make healthcare professionals’ jobs easier, which directly impacts the level of care that patients receive in these hospitals.

Beginning the transition to a smart healthcare building doesn’t have to be complicated. By setting goals for connectivity upfront, you can create a smarter, more efficient, and more sustainable healthcare facility while staying under budget and on schedule.

An outcome-driven approach to designing or retrofitting a smart building keeps the project focused. One of the best ways to approach setting these goals is by examining the needs of the occupant; this is particularly important for hospitals where the leading priority must always be patient comfort and caregiver productivity. With this in mind, common smart building project goals include improved emergency response and bettering the patient experience. Though not always directly tied to patient care, another outcome that can make a significant difference to a hospital’s operations is energy efficiency. Reducing energy waste in buildings can greatly impact any op-ex budget.

Below we’ll dive into these three project outcome examples to see how they can be achieved through an intelligently integrated smart building.

Improved Emergency Response

During a code blue, timing is everything. Seconds can often be the difference between life and death, making efficiency an absolute necessity. Technology integrations can take some of the operational details out of the hands of individuals, removing the potential for human error in a moment of crisis.

Smart Buildings 2During an emergency, the integration of HVAC, lighting and communication systems can contribute to an optimal environment for improving patient care. The moment a code blue is triggered, an alarm system alerts the nurses’ station, which then triggers additional building systems such as HVAC or security. This communication between systems is critical, telling them exactly which room needs attention. From there, HVAC can kick in to cool the room down. This decrease in temperature not only creates an optimal environment for the human body to recover but provides comfort to the healthcare professionals in a high-stress situation. At the same time, lighting can brighten to improve visibility within the room, while the blinds close and a monitor displays the patients’ medications or any urgent next steps. Together, these actions could have easily distracted a doctor or nurse. But because of the building’s integration it was an automatic response, allowing the healthcare professionals to focus on the job at hand.

Perfecting the Patient Experience

There’s been a huge push in the healthcare industry to improve the patient experience. Hospitals are taking a more holistic approach, one that’s not just about the care patients receive, but also their comfort. Smart buildings and technology integrations make delivering this elevated experience easy and reliable.

One such example is total room automation (TRA). This integration allows patients to control their own lighting, window shades and room temperature with a single control. Taking this innovation a step forward, some hospitals are experimenting with mobile applications that give patients even more control over their surroundings. These apps can be integrated with the hospital’s communication system to replace the standard call button, allowing patients to message nurses directly. Apps can even enable patients to control their room’s television or order their daily meals. These integrations not only give patients some autonomy over their own experience, but also improve the productivity of healthcare professionals; when patients can help themselves, these small tasks are taken off nurses’ and doctors’ plates. The patients and even their families feel more comfortable, and their caretakers have more time in their days.

Optimizing Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is integral for any fiscally-minded organization. Thoughtfully integrating HVAC, security and lighting systems can greatly reduce energy waste in a hospital or healthcare facility. When these systems are interconnected, they can work together to optimize their performance.

Building automation systems (BAS) are a big part of this optimization. For example, patient rooms can be automated to enter into energy-saving mode when sensors detect they are unoccupied. Lights can be switched off, temperature adjusted and the blinds can even be closed. When implemented across an entire hospital campus, this can save significant energy and op-ex dollars in the long run, allowing those savings to be reallocated elsewhere.

BAS also allows for greater analytics and monitoring. Through intelligent metering dashboards, facility managers can gain insight into where exactly energy inefficiencies are occurring within the hospital, allowing for a customized sustainable strategy to be created and implemented.

Ready to Get Started?

If your hospital is starting to feel like it’s being surpassed by more innovative, technologically-advanced facilities, it might be time to consider a smart building project. While beginning the transition to a smart hospital can seem like an enormous challenge, with the right outcome-driven approach the project can proceed on schedule and on time. If you’re worried about budget, like many healthcare facilities are, you can still achieve a smart facility with little to no upfront capital. There are funding alternatives available, such as Performance Contracting and Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Maintain (DBFOM), that help fund improvements upfront and get paid back through energy and operational savings. A win/win for healthcare facilities who are balancing a seemingly endless list of priorities.

Outcomes like improved patient care, emergency response, and energy efficiency are entirely possible through strategic technology integrations. By first determining the outcomes that matter to you, your healthcare professionals and your patients, you can design an innovative building that delivers the environment you want. 

Fadi Kiameh serves as Performance Infrastructure™ business development manager at Johnson Controls.

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