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How are hospitals’ complex environments challenging building automation systems (BAS)?

Garima Bharadwaj
Garima Bharadwaj

14th September 2022

Introduction

In the contemporary digital world, the Internet of Things (IoT) and other technological advancements have cut the cost of automation. They are offering new options for creating safe, healthy, and effective environments, which has inspired the creation of building automation systems for hospitals. The days of basic HVAC system control through building automation are long gone. The possibilities for building management in healthcare are expanding as smart sensors, cutting-edge analytics, centralized control components, and wireless IP network connectivity are integrated with building systems of all types today.

While this may have a large effect on operating expenses, it may also accomplish something even more beneficial. Additionally, hospitals pose a variety of challenges for BASs, from internal problems like resource limitations and staff shortages to external problems like changing regulatory requirements. In this blog, we will discuss building automation systems and how hospitals’ complex settings pose challenges for building automation systems (BAS).

What is a Building Automation System?

The term “building automation systems” is frequently used to refer to building management systems. As a result of the development of smart technologies, automation and administration are now more advanced than before. A smart building automation system (BAS) for hospitals and the healthcare industry works in much the same way as any other facility. It is installed to automatically control a building’s operations, enhance energy efficiency, and manage the climate for inhabitants’ comfort. That entails managing and keeping an eye on a number of systems and equipment, such as access control, Air intakes, CCTV camera, IT systems, lighting fixtures, and security alarms.

The components of a smart building automation system are based on cloud computing and data storage, along with sophisticated software that assembles this vast data. Data from all linked systems may be continuously monitored and assessed to provide comprehensive, real-time insight into how the building operates by integrating building systems, incorporating IoT devices, and implementing an analytics framework. In order to improve performance, a system with machine learning capabilities can then offer suggestions to human users or even alter behavior automatically using pre-programmed parameters.

Benefits of Building Automation Systems for Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

Despite having many similarities to other building types, hospitals stand out due to the equipment they house, the conditions they must sustain, and their significance in people’s daily lives. Innovative medical facilities design their infrastructure with the following goals in mind:

  • Usage of less energy
  • Maintain adherence to demanding and evolving health regulations.
  • Enhancing healthcare outcomes
  • Offer high-quality medical care
  • Lower the cost of operations and labor
  • Increasing healthcare staff productivity
  • Maximize patient comfort in the space

Two of the major advantages of employing building automation systems in hospitals are given below.

Smart HVAC Systems to Improve Hospital Wellness

The provision of a sanitary and healthful environment for patients to recuperate from major illnesses or medical operations is one of the hospitals’ primary goals. HVAC systems are crucial to achieving this objective. While the 2020–21 coronavirus pandemic made ventilation and airflow particularly crucial, optimum HVAC performance has long been a major goal in healthcare settings. High-performance HVAC systems are used in hospital building automation systems for reducing the number of particulates and pathogens in the air by filtering it, maintaining air quality and watching the airflow, and promoting hygienic conditions and pleasant settings.

In addition, by minimizing the need for surface contact, continuously scanning the surroundings for disease-causing microbes, and automatically adjusting the HVAC system to improve air quality based on sensor data, building automation systems for hospitals can aid in improving hygiene and reducing the spread of infections. HVAC is essential for keeping patients comfortable as well as safe. By dynamically changing temperature and humidity levels and promptly alerting maintenance staff to performance issues, intelligent building automation systems assist you in achieving this.

Enhanced Safety & Security

Hospitals place a high focus on the treatment of illnesses and other medical issues, but security in medical facilities is also a major concern. In order to make hospitals more safe, it is important to address cybersecurity concerns as well as physical access restrictions since poor patient information security may result in loss of confidence and legal action. This means that security must be incorporated into the process when integrating systems to build a smart BMS. Selecting a qualified systems administrator dedicated to optimize security practices and risk-mitigation technology is crucial and can provide more security than piecemeal solutions.

Another field where automated methods might be quite helpful is fire safety. Integrating a fire detection and alarm system can offer vital early warnings that enable situations in confined regions to be dealt with without the need for extensive evacuations. By detecting problems early, it is not necessary to transport sick, weak, or vulnerable individuals. Numerous additional security issues that healthcare institutions deal with could have an impact on patient outcomes, staff productivity, building system functionality, or even infection rates. For the benefit of both hospital staff and patients, modern building automation systems for hospitals provide technology that implements security measures and protocols.

Why Smart Automation and Connectivity are Essential in Modern Hospitals?

To enable secure data interchange amongst all healthcare systems, hospitals are shifting away from siloed and compartmentalized systems. Greater efficiency and more efficient operations are made possible by the transition to a connected environment. Hospitals’ existing building automation systems can use smart technologies to help them achieve this.

Improved smart connection in hospitals enables you to manage many processes simultaneously from one central location, cut costs, streamline maintenance, improve patient experience, and increase staff satisfaction. An intelligent investment in the health of patients is a well-designed hospital building automation system with analytics, which can improve HVAC functionality, reduce the need for human intervention, and increase security. A cutting-edge technology created to protect patients will soon demonstrate its value and can continue to be beneficial for years to come.

How do hospitals’ complex settings pose challenges for building automation systems?

Expectations for BAS performance and capability have substantially changed in recent years. BAS has evolved from basic HVAC controls and automation to offering a wide range of capabilities by integrating with other systems used in healthcare settings. BAS providers have noticed an increase in demand for building automation technology that allows for monitoring and maintenance as mobile device usage rises. However, hospitals pose a variety of difficulties for BASs, from internal problems like resource limitations and personnel shortages to external ones like changing regulatory requirements.

One such problem is outdated infrastructure. Older hospitals are widespread nowadays. Having sealed ducting, a building envelope, and network infrastructure can all prevent the implementation of efficient automation. However, these difficulties also present chances for improved effectiveness. Without a coordinated strategy or uniformity, various wings can have distinct control systems. Many hospitals use ineffective HVAC systems such as twin duct systems with a mix of BAS components and pneumatic controllers, constant volume reheat systems, and constant volume reheat systems. Some of the challenges hospitals’ complex settings pose for building automation systems are listed below.

Data collection and management

The modern BASs’ primary component is data collection and mining. According to experts, “data collecting gives the knowledge needed to make informed decisions regarding how to operate the physical infrastructure to provide healing settings for patients in a cost-effective and sustainable manner.” Outliers and anomalies that may have an influence on operational costs or the comfort of patients and staff are usually revealed by the capacity to recognize and detect trends in data streams.

One of the biggest expenses a facilities department must control is the energy budget. Therefore, it’s critical to be able to promptly spot problems, reduce the financial effect of underperforming systems or equipment, and improve efficiency among the contracting and maintenance teams. Future analysis can be based on a baseline that is created by tracking and recording environmental and equipment operating variables across time.

An efficient BAS will facilitate data searching and filtering needed for various compliance reporting issues and present this data in a clear, intuitive manner to identify issues before they become expensive repairs. It will also seamlessly integrate with cloud-hosted analytics to transform information into insights and corrective actions.

For the purpose of enhancing and perfecting BASs, data collecting is crucial, and it is particularly crucial in three areas.

  1. Reliability-focused maintenance: Data enables health care institutions to remove the additional pressures of unforeseen maintenance requirements and helps them prioritize their labor and resources. Hospitals may control energy resources all through the facility by implementing more connected solutions, which improves efficiency, sustainability, and resilience while offering chances for cost savings that won’t impact patient satisfaction.
  2. Centralized management: To keep all of these processes structured and conveniently available in one place, an intelligent facility orchestrates all the crucial data components that are distributed across equipment and operate the facility comprehensively. Resources from both the IT and operational technology sides can be utilized effectively by combining connected technology systems.
  3. Greater results: The facilities of hospitals are also geared at enhancing patient care. Facilities managers are able to develop plans that increase patient safety due to data on outcomes and trends analysis. Connectivity between interoperable BAS systems eliminates the need to buy systems from various providers. A networked system with dependable data output makes it easier to comply with regulations and boosts financial performance, employee productivity, and safety and security.

Continuous advancements of technologies

According to experts, BASs will continue to benefit from new developments in touchless and mobile communications. They will be quicker and simpler to use in medical settings as a result, with less chance of touch and contamination.

The potential to aggregate enormous data sets through machine learning and artificial intelligence is something that facility management professionals see as growing significantly. This will result in site-specific, creative techniques that reduce waste, boost efficiency, and prolong equipment life.

BAS integration requirements will keep growing, necessitating increased collaboration and partnerships with IT companies. Additional OT and IT system integration will increase the hospital’s capacity to manage and integrate more operational components, which will increase operational efficiency.

Expanding automation capabilities

BAS providers have recently increased the number of BAS functions and applications relevant to the healthcare industry. For instance, contemporary building automation solution providers use analytics to better monitor and diagnose issues with mechanical operations. These insights are then fed into computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) to enable improvements. It performs safe data interchange between Schneider Electric and outside energy, light, HVAC, fire safety, security, and organization’s management systems while utilizing digitization and big data for improved visibility.

Particularly in emergency treatment and regional health delivery services, Automated Logic tends to observe a growth in the variety of care delivery options. In response, nowadays, businesses increase the availability of remote site monitoring and analysis along with distributed and cloud solutions for enterprise applications. With more attention being paid to indoor air quality (IAQ), there has been a substantial increase in the need for technology that can inform the patient and worker community about IAQ posture.

Best Practices of Building Automation Systems for a hospital

The BAS’s responsibility is to guarantee data availability, offer powerful analytics tools that can analyze data points, and synthesize that data using artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop plans that increase patient and staff safety and comfort. Below are some of the best practices for building automation systems for the hospital environment.

  • Improve your data logging and presentation capabilities: The amount of memory available to building automation systems nowadays is more than ever. As a result, the system is better able to gather more data. Hospital administrators can provide regulators with comprehensive and detailed statistics about both the pace of airflow in rooms and the rate of energy usage due to enhanced data analysis. Additionally, trending data can be used by facilities workers with the aid of data analytics tools to optimize the performance of buildings through data-driven system changes.
  • Design environments that support both positive and negative pressures: Positive air pressure (fresh air flowing in) is a strict condition in some hospital rooms. For instance, nearly 24 air changes per hour are needed in an operating room during an operation. As a result, the air in the space needs to be totally changed every three minutes. Other hospital rooms require negative air pressure. Think about the areas that contain surgical instruments, soiled scrubs, and dirty clothing. Those are the spaces that need to be maintained with negative air pressure (no air escapes the area and gets into other rooms nearby). Such positive and negative air flow conditions must be maintained by precise ventilation systems that are faultless.
  • Maintenance on a regular basis: In a hospital environment, fresh air is blended as it enters the building from the outside and is inspected for impurities. The air then passes through ductwork, overcooling, heating, and humidification coils, past a number of filters, and into the rooms where patients and employees are housed. The new air comes in as the old air is simultaneously expelled and replaced. Without a comprehensive preventative maintenance process, building owners attract scenarios in which the risk of airborne mold spores that contaminate the air supply increases. This maintenance schedule should include routine filter replacement in the hospital environment.
  • Pay attention to how well the dampers work: Dampers are used to manage airflow inside structures. For instance, a damper regulates the facility’s intake of outside air that is fresh. While some dampers control the volume of the return air, others aid in air mixing. Slats with a very thin mesh screen are typically used in dampers to control airflow. Air quality suffers, and it becomes challenging to meet preset airflow requirements when a damper malfunctions. Thus, to maintain safe airflow performance, dampers should be checked and tested frequently.
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Conclusion

Nowadays, hospital building automation systems are a crucial tool for resource optimization, whether new hospitals are being built or old ones are being renovated. Achieving more with fewer resources, abiding by stringent rules, adjusting to constantly-evolving technology, and taking safety and health precautions? -- A hospital is a sophisticated system in every sense of the phrase. That is why it is crucial to invest in the remodeling of healthcare facilities, as hospital engineers in particular have been doing. Hospitals can take control of all the equipment, software, networking, and support with the help of high-end managed services for property management. Managed services frequently involve data streams that are assured and protected by service level agreements (SLAs), which frequently include criteria of data security and quality. They produce more data of greater quality overall and enable more connections to more equipment. Hospitals gain from being able to provide top-notch patient care without worrying about equipment or facility-level failures. They can decrease downtime, safeguard important cash sources, and improve security against online attacks.


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