Operational Technologies in the High-Performance Healthcare Facility
When someone is selecting a doctor, hospital or medical practice, they typically take several factors into account: the doctor’s experience, any special training he or she has, referrals from friends and family. Those are all extremely important, but what about the facility itself that these patients visit?
The impact that the doctor has on a patient is obvious, but the facility itself is also critical to providing the correct care in a cost-efficient manner. As these facilities age, they become expensive to maintain as equipment malfunctions and improvements to security are demanded, both by regulation and by set industry standards.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has called for improved infrastructure to support a higher standard of patient care. An updated facility boasts the structure needed to provide the service that patients expect. Each part of a healthcare facility truly is key not just to its functionality, but to the patient experience as well.
While the necessity for upgraded facilities is certainly well-known, the practical application is still a major question for healthcare facility managers. What’s driving these changes? Which technologies are available for facility managers to implement? And what is the most effective way to incorporate such technologies?
What’s Driving the Need for New Operational Technologies – And What’s Taking So Long?
When healthcare facilities were originally built, each was constructed on a campus-by-campus basis, operating differently depending on whether it was an acute or outpatient facility. Each facility therefore has a different modus operandi, even as mergers and acquisitions placed a wide variety of facility structures under the auspices of one particular hospital or healthcare system.
As a result of this patchwork construction and operational integration, different facilities have wildly different ways of operating – even if they are now under the same umbrella network – with different approaches to facility management and different plans to upgrade “at some point” in the future.
Today, the need for centrally-run facilities is essential to the welfare of the facility, its bottom line and of course the patient experience. Some processes may be cost-prohibitive or laborious to implement because of the major differences between these once-independent facilities.
Facility managers need a system-wide operational realignment and panoramic view in order to implement any positive changes in a cost-effective manner. Of course, this is easier said than done: realigning all plans and combining them with other facilities can present logistical and occasionally human conflicts as facility managers or decision makers need to give up some facets of their system structures in order to achieve operational excellence throughout all the linked facilities.
This complicated web has been a roadblock for facilities seeking to reduce occupancy costs. Facility managers can integrate sustainable and effective solutions such as smart, responsive healthcare building automation into their long-term occupancy cost reduction plans, but doing so may feel overwhelming when each facility is running at a different pace, with slightly different interests and on a different schedule. A holistic real estate plan is necessary in order to advance.
While a short-term solution for cost reduction such as cutting back on staff may be tempting if an agreement between facility managers can’t be reached, the savings generated from such a drastic move are not sustainable. In fact, they represent something distinctly opposed to operational excellence, as they’re detrimental to the patient experience.
Implementing Operational Technologies for the Win-Win
Each element of operations in a healthcare facility impacts the bottom line, which speaks fundamentally to the facility’s ability to meet its primary goal: achieving desirable patient outcomes.
In a notoriously expensive industry which uses far more electricity than other industries, energy spend is typically seen as a “necessary evil” – after all, these life-saving machines rely on high-powered energy systems to work. Yet an aging facility with unseen energy leaks, failing systems and complex system interdependencies (that more often than not, no single person is fully aware of, let alone truly understands) can put all that life-saving work in jeopardy.
An advanced energy monitoring system is an important part of any coordinated long-term plan to keep a healthcare facility humming. With such a system in place, a healthcare facility manager is duly informed and empowered to positively impact the healthcare network’s bottom line while simultaneously improving system resilience and operational excellence.
By collecting and analyzing device-level data, facility managers can identify places and times to reduce energy spend, adjust usage patterns and repair equipment. For example, by looking at the energy signatures of the devices throughout a facility, an astute manager may notice unnecessary operational redundancies, faulty equipment drawing energy beyond its designed range, wasteful light lighting, conflicting systems or system settings, and other related issues.
As facility managers begin to act on the importance of centralized management, they would be wise to avoid drastic and detrimental short-term solutions. In most cases, it’ll be hard to cobble together the disparate parts of the healthcare network’s whole without first securing a panoramic view of the entire system. With this information in hand, centralizing command and control is a matter of putting the pieces together, pulling the right levers and making modest adjustments to human and system structures.
Since energy is the spark that runs through every aspect of a healthcare operation, it makes an excellent resource in building that visibility. In the best cases, it’ll be as easy as outfitting existing systems with aftermarket technologies.
Whatever supporting solutions you favor on the road to operational excellence, one thing is clear – the next steps in the march toward improved patient outcomes will be defined by efforts to centralize facility management without giving up any operational control or agility. It should be no surprise that visibility – both panoramic and granular – will play a big role in those efforts.