Offsetting the costs of patient satisfaction with operational efficiencies
When operations run smoothly in healthcare facilities, everyone benefits. By employing an engineering strategy focused on increasing operational efficiency, hospitals achieve cost savings that allow them to dedicate more resources to elevating patient care and increasing patient satisfaction.
There are several solutions that improve efficiency while saving cost and time for healthcare facilities.
Occupied spaces in a healthcare facility require a high level of airflow changes per hour, and air handling units (AHUs) use a great deal of energy. For example, an occupied operating room requires a minimum of 20 air changes per hour for the protection of the patient. When an operating room isn’t in use, however, the air change rate may be lowered. This allows a facility to turn down the airflow rate to save on energy costs while still maintaining the positive pressure the room needs even when unoccupied.
"Many facilities install a control panel in operating rooms that allows staff to lower the airflow rate when the operating room will be unoccupied," said Marty Herrick, P.E., associate at RTM." The operating rooms are then turned up to their occupied rate for the procedure-from preparation through cleanup-which ensures the safety of patients and may result in energy cost savings of one-half to one-third."
Occupancy sensors also can be installed as a primary or backup method to reduce airflow in vacant operating rooms.
Implementing energy-efficient lighting results in a host of long-term benefits for the facility. Quality illumination is necessary for every space within a facility – from patient rooms and hallways to parking garages and MRI suites – but it also is a significant expense. LED lighting provides better functionality than fluorescent lighting, lasting longer and requiring less upkeep. The end result? The facility saves money and maintenance time.
An advanced building automation system allows facility staff to get equipment feedback and troubleshoot problems remotely. This ease of access allows for faster turnaround times when rectifying a problem as it relates to room environment. Staff can view data on everything from plumbing pumps and emergency generators to exhaust fans and AHUs from points throughout the hospital or even off-site locations.
"If a patient is complaining his room is too warm, the facility staff can investigate possible causes of the problem through the automation system," said Herrick. "Without even entering the patient’s room, they can determine if the heating valve is open or closed, and look at points from the variable air volume (VAV) box to verify it is also operating correctly."