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In Healthcare, Energy Efficiency Can Mean Energy and Experience

Tom Machinchick
Jul 12, 2018

Healthcare buildings use a lot of energy. According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the average hospital uses 2.5 times the amount of energy as other commercial building types. This is largely due to 24/7 operation, inefficient medical equipment, and inherently high requirements for energy and clean water resources. Energy is a critical resource in a healthcare facility, where a disruption in power supply can be life threatening.

Adding to the energy related dilemma in healthcare facilities is the desire to manage costs in a highly competitive environment while simultaneously enhancing the experience of the patients and visitors to the facility. Healthcare executives tend to reduce costs by minimizing expenditures on non-revenue generating expenses—such as building CAPEX—in favor of those that can enhance revenue, like a new MRI machine.

Energy Efficiency Serves Multiple Purposes

Energy efficient building technologies combined with intelligent building technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) can help healthcare facilities accomplish these overarching goals in a host of ways, including:

  • Cost Savings: Energy efficient building technologies such as efficient HVAC systems and LED lighting can reduce energy-related costs in the healthcare facility while still enabling the facility to provide a robust healing environment. A facility with an appropriately configured HVAC system, for example, will not only save money on energy related costs, but will also have help meeting stringent air quality requirements while managing the spread of infectious diseases, dust, chemicals, and other pathogens through the ventilation system.
  • Improved Patient Experience: Intelligent building systems, such as an IoT-enabled infrastructure, can enhance energy related savings even further through more integrated sensing and operation of all building systems. In addition, these intelligent systems can enable things like personalized patient preferences for room temperature and lighting, hallway noise management, and indoor wayfinding for visitors. These conveniences can give a measure of control back to a patient who may be experiencing a loss of control due to a debilitating disease.
  • Improved Operational Processes: Hospital productivity can be enhanced with the use of intelligent building technologies. For example, real time location systems (RTLS) have been employed to track care-related equipment to prevent hoarding (of equipment), and reduce the time to locate what is necessary in immediate and more standard care situations. Even nurses, doctors, patients, other staff members, and security can be tracked to facilitate better response times. As an example, cleaning services can be notified immediately upon patient discharge, allowing a new patient into the room sooner and increasing the facility’s throughput, which adds to the bottom line.

There are many more ways that energy efficient and intelligent building technologies can assist healthcare facilities accomplish their overarching goals of patient care, cost reduction, and operating more sustainably. The overall standard of care can be raised by using these technologies, ultimately transforming a healthcare facility from a cost center to an instrument of care in its own right.