Attributed to Benedict Soh, Vice President, Partner & Industry Business, Schneider Electric
Hospitals are complex environments with thousands of moving parts. The astonishing number of personalities, training, technologies, infrastructure and finance that need to come together and work in concert to get a moderately sick emergency patient diagnosed, treated and admitted is beyond what virtually any other industry must engage.
It is therefore not surprising that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that even in developed countries, as many as 1 in 10 patients is harmed while receiving hospital care.1 Such harm can be caused by a range of errors or adverse patient events (APEs), many of which are preventable; such as power outages, air filters being clogged with mould and human errors. These events are not only costly to hospital budgets, sometimes costing countries as much as USD 19 billion annually,2 but the cost it bears on human lives is tremendous.
A hospital is never stagnant, so the design and infrastructure of a well-run hospital should have intelligence embedded into it. This will enable it to detect any potential issues, giving management valuable insights to respond accordingly while at the same time providing built-in protection against mechanical and human errors that could lead to APEs.
Automated Building Infrastructure
In many cases, APEs are attributed to human error, but fires, electrical issues, and poorly maintained plumbing systems are just a few facility-related faults that can impact the care and safety of a patient. Hospitals have the opportunity to turn to automated building infrastructure solutions, where Barriers, security and safeguards are strategically built into the hospital’s building management, security and IT systems.
Securing Patient and Staff Safety
Violence against both hospital staff and patients is another key hospital security risk. Ensuring patient and staff safety is essential, as if healthcare professionals feel at risk or threatened, they could lose focus, which then causes more potential for human errors.
Patient elopements – when the patient leaves the hospital without medical consent from their physicians, is another common issue that relate to patient security. These cases are highly damaging to the hospitals’ reputation as well as possible financial damage from subsequent lawsuits.
Intelligent and integrated security management systems can greatly improve hospital security in many ways. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices can be used to prevent infant abductions or patient elopement. Video surveillance, alarm systems, access control, perimeter protection can be integrated into security systems to allow security personnel quicker responses. Medical equipment can be tagged so that staff are able to determine the location instantaneously in emergencies. All these measures serve as a strong buffer against negative behaviours that harm patient safety and health.
Reducing Airborne Infections
Hospital-acquired infections, particularly airborne infections, are spread by inadequately maintained ventilation systems, and are continual threats to patients whose immune systems are already compromised by illness. A hospital’s environment needs to be controlled and maintained at prescribed standards and humidity levels 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to not only ensure comfortable and healing conditions for the patients, but also to prevent mold, fungi, and bacteria, as well as ensure that dust contaminants are ventilated out of the patient rooms.
To minimise the need for extra maintenance personnel and adding to operational expenses, hospitals can build intelligence into their ventilation systems to optimise patient safety and maintenance. The intelligent system will automatically monitor and maintain humidity, ventilation, air pressure, and HEPA filters in real-time, and ensure they are controlled to design requirements.
Ensuring Power Reliability and Preventing Fires
With high electricity demands around the clock, hospitals are especially susceptible to electrical fires. In fact, electrical fires account for 10% of hospital fires globally3 and this poses a danger to patients and staff.
It is important to implement systems that monitor electrical systems and cooling to make the infrastructure more secure. Ideally, these systems should also integrate alarms that will alert staff in real-time when circuits overload to prevent electrical fires. The integrated system will guard against the occurrence of fires and provide hospital management staff with a clear view on their energy expenditures so they can take steps to optimise energy usage.
Achieving Schneider Electric’s Vision of the Intelligent Hospital
Hospitals are meant to be places of healing and safety. Yet threats to patient safety and hospital staff security from both external and internal sources continue to overshadow the physician’s oath to “do no harm.” Schneider Electric believes that implementing intelligent, self-thinking systems into hospitals is truly the way forward to creating the best defence, and allow hospital management to have stronger control over the physical environmental factors that can affect patient and staff safety.
In addition, hospitals stand to gain significant savings fiscally by reducing APEs that cause harm to patients. Lawsuits, litigation costs and indirect costs such as lost business due to bad publicity can also be avoided.
Healthcare directly affects each and every one of us. With Asia’s ageing population, it will become more important than ever to ensure that hospital facilities are at their best. Schneider Electric believes that the intelligent hospital is the answer - and it is a solution that healthcare organisations can successfully achieve today.
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1WHO: 10 Facts on Patient Safety (http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/patient_safety/en/) Page 1
2WHO: 10 Facts on Patient Safety (http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/patient_safety/en/) Page 6
3How Intelligent Facility Management Systems Can Help Optimise Patient Safety, Michael Sullivan, Graeme Robertson, Steve Nibbelink, GinniStieva, Chris Roberts, and Grant Neave July 2011