Navigant Research Blog

How the Internet of Things is Changing Healthcare

— February 25, 2015

Much talked about in the energy efficiency sector, the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a world where everything from lamps to HVAC systems to entire grids will one day be connected. The concept has gained traction in recent years, but deployments remain modest. Only an estimated 1% of the world’s buildings use systems to control and network lighting, and only 7% of commercial building lighting is operated using smart controls.

However, controls products offer huge energy consumption savings opportunities. Enlighted Inc., one lighting controls vendor, claims that its wireless sensor system can cut commercial building energy consumption by 50% to 75%. In an environment where healthcare costs are predicted to increase by 6% annually for the next decade and uncertainty lingers concerning the Affordable Care Act, cost-savings opportunities like that are enthusiastically welcomed.

Update Needed

In the healthcare sector, IT investments increasingly emphasize connectivity and networked systems. Networking enables healthcare systems to lower costs while improving patient experiences and facilitating an advanced degree of care customization. Particularly in the United States, where the cost of patient discharge is about $18,000 (versus $6,000 in other developed nations), networked systems can dramatically cut administrative costs.

One of the greatest benefits is the ability to test and diagnose devices remotely. This can help to reduce device downtime and avoid unexpected breakdowns, thus avoiding shutdown costs and patient rescheduling. Connected devices, such as MRIs, CT scanners, and lab test equipment, can signal when critical operational components are being depleted.

Efficient scheduling is another benefit of IoT technology in healthcare facilities. By leveraging utilization statistics, hospital employees are able to optimize equipment use and avoid over-scheduling procedures.

Seeing the Patterns

The expanded capabilities of smart, connected products and the data they generate are becoming necessary in the increasingly competitive healthcare sector. In addition to cost-cutting benefits, the IoT is opening extensive opportunities for improved operational efficiency and patient satisfaction. This emerging Internet of Healthy Things is composed of apps and hardware that promote positive health outcomes and focus on preventive healthcare for individuals. For example, Fitbit’s wearable device captures health-related data, such as sleep patterns, activity levels, and other personal metrics, to provide a complete picture of behavior and baseline vital signs. Medical device companies offer home health-monitoring systems that allow physicians to remotely monitor their patients’ clinical status. For example, Propeller Health’s asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) tracker allows a doctor to remotely monitor patients’ symptoms. Other apps exist to monitor a range of other health issues, including diabetes.

Although the healthcare sector has been traditionally slow to embrace new technology, the IoT offers improvements for both facility management and individual patient care. As tele-health and other in-home care options continue to expand, IoT-enabled devices can enable progressive hospitals to remain competitive—and improve outcomes.

 

Hospitals Seek Energy Care

— January 8, 2015

In December, Boston’s Green Ribbon Commission (GRC) Healthcare Working Group published an energy profile of 22 million SF of metro Boston hospitals between 2011 and 2013.  The report found that, as a result of energy efficiency and conservation measures, Boston hospitals have reduced energy use by 6% while expanding facility square footage.  The study utilized over 18,000 energy and greenhouse gas records based on U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Portfolio Manager data.

One important output of the study is an energy database, the first of its kind in the nation.  The database contains data tracking of different hospital and healthcare system progress toward greenhouse gas reduction goals.  The goals, laid out by the GRC, are a sectorwide 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 80% by 2050.  Hospitals are the second-highest user of energy among all building types in terms of energy intensity, and healthcare organizations spend nearly $8.8 billion annually on energy.  In other words, efforts to reduce energy consumption across the healthcare system will pay outsized benefits.

In Wisconsin, Gundersen Health System recently achieved energy independence, producing more energy than it consumes.  The system, which includes hospitals, medical clinics, nursing homes, and additional health facilities, set a goal 6 years ago to reduce energy consumption and increase renewables production.  Achieving energy independence exceeds the initial goal, and Gundersen has also reported annual savings of approximately $2 million, as well as energy efficiency improvements of more than 40%.

Federal Programs

In the last few months of 2014, several federal initiatives and studies dealing with energy in hospitals and the healthcare sector were announced.

In October, the U.S.  Department of Energy announced $9 million to encourage investment in energy reduction technologies for deployment in commercial buildings, including hospitals.  This announcement supports the Obama administration’s effort to double energy productivity by 2030 and reduce overall carbon emissions in commercial buildings.

In mid-December, the White House released a report with guidelines to help the healthcare sector become more resilient in the face of climate change and already-high operations costs. The average hospital spends approximately $675,000 on annual energy costs, according to the 2003 Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS).  The CBECS data showed that hospitals greater than 200,000 SF  consumed 4.3% of the total commercial sector energy used in 2003, but accounted for less than 2% of all commercial floor space.  The White House report outlines specific technologies that can help healthcare systems, including combined heat and power and fuel cells.

 

An Energy Cure for Hospitals

— August 12, 2014

When it comes to energy reduction in buildings, friendly competition is a strategy that gains a lot of visibility.  In recent blogs, here and here, we’ve discussed how the U.S. Department of Energy has set up competitions for financial institutions and office buildings to become as efficient as possible.  Companies like Opower rely on peer pressure to help communities lower their residential energy bills.  The latest to join in the fray are U.S. hospitals.

The Energy to Care program, run by the American Hospital Association, takes a slightly more advanced route to creating an energy reduction competition between buildings.  The Better Buildings Challenge relies on buildings uploading their ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager data (either automatically or by hand) into the system and then submitting the results to be a part of the competition.  In Energy to Care, the ENERGY STAR benchmarking data is only the first part of the competition, and the approach used can be adapted as a real building energy management system (BEMS) to aid in ongoing energy savings.

Cost Reductions

The latest Energy to Care program is built on top of Lucid Design’s BuildingOS platform, a BEMS solution that makes integrating data from building energy systems easy and fast.  Lucid Design made its name by engaging through the development of their dashboards, commonly found in universities and government buildings.  BuildingOS offers tools to integrate data from multiple sources, including building automation systems, plug-load monitors, and renewable power generators.  Along with the data integration are visuals and analytics that can aid facility managers and sustainability professionals in their efforts to improve building performance and reach sustainability goals.

Hospitals are in need of this kind of care.  As the second-highest user of energy among all building types in terms of energy intensity and the consumers of 4% of all U.S. energy, hospitals need to leverage these tools to reduce the $8.8 billion a year in energy costs the industry shoulders.  Given the competiveness in the healthcare market, every dollar saved on operations is welcome.

In Energy to Care, the Portfolio Manager data is incorporated in BuildingOS.  Depending on the richness of the data uploaded, the hospital then has access to analytics and graphics that can quickly identify problems associated with energy use in the building.  Hospital energy managers can understand which systems are consuming more power and when power use varies beyond expected levels over the course of a day or week.  The ease of integration of these tools will make energy conservation measures easy to identify and their effectiveness measurable in the long run.  While Lucid Design will benefit from the widespread deployment of its product, the hospitals, and in turn the public, will benefit from reduced costs.

 

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