Delta Controls Provides Smarter Solutions for Patient Safety

John Brough explains how building automation systems can help win back budget and create safer environments for patients.

According to market research conducted by industry research group Memoori, by 2020 smart buildings will be one of the largest vertical markets for the Internet of Things (IoT) in terms of revenue, at 16.8 percent of the market. You begin to realize the scale of this figure when you consider consumer electronics are only set to take 17.9 percent of the market. We will spending as much on drawing data from our buildings as we will on the personal electronics that facilitate our daily lives. 

The implications o these projections are felt nowhere as clearly as in our healthcare buildings. The needs of patient care facilities and operating rooms are becoming increasingly specialized, while problems such as overcrowding and underfunding work against the creation of the necessary optimized environments. This creates a dichotomy, where medical science advances towards increasingly specialized building control environments, but cost and space limitations dictate a need for multipurpose facilities. Healthcare facilities have some of the most complex multipurpose needs, and the tightest operating budgets.

This is where recent advancements in the building automation system (BAS) industry start to bridge the gap. Building administration systems are capable of delivering more information about the equipment running within their buildings than they ever were in the past. Previously, the only way to know if equipment was running in an inefficient manner (or failing) was to perform an expensive retrocommissioning process, followed bt an even more expensive equipment retrofit. These processes often resulted in high capital expenditures for the healthcare facilities, drawing budget away from other patient priorities. In the meantime, operating costs of the facilities continue to rise because, like all systems, building systems degrade without constant maintenance.

Expert Diagnosis

A smart building is able to report and even predict the breakage of equipment. Because the reporting process is ongoing, upkeep can be scheduled on a continual basis, smoothing out the operating costs of the facility and prolonging the operating life of large scale operating equipment. By using the data directly from the building itself, individual systems can be assessed for upgrade or replacement based on operating efficiency. Previously, it was difficult to access and interpret building data, and very costly using physical meters to track energy performance. But as networks continue to advance, and more devices become capable of reporting information about their operation and efficiency, this data becomes more easily available and increasingly valuable - if you are able to act on that information.

But analytics alone is like an MRI scan: a picture that needs an expert to make the diagnosis. Delta Controls has focused on delivering actionable data through the advancement of its building automation system, winning Control Trends BAS System of the Year 2014, and through continual development of its enteliWEB software platform, which helps building managers operate their BAS from any mobile device.

Delta Controls recognized the importance of building analytics early and created a sister company, CopperTree Analytics, which specialize in gathering, analyzing and providing insight into how to optimize building performance. CopperTree is designed to integrate with enteliWEB so users can not only see how their building is performing like never before, but they can make changes directly into the BAS to fix issues. Both products allow users to customize their own dashboards so they see exactly what is important for them to track and manage in their environments. The result is a system that can be used by many more members of the building's staff. Previously, BAS were just the domain of facilities managers and energy management specialists, but Delta combines dashboard capabilities with web access from smart devices to make day-to-day operations within healthcare facilities easier as well.

Dashboard Approach

Stringent environmental controls need to be maintained while operating rooms are in use. This can be very costly, so most hospitals employ a complex booking and occupancy system to ensure the operating room is only conditioned when in use.Delta's dashboard approach means staff members can be assigned to groups with pre-built interfaces for those systems. The interface is graphical so it can be designed to lead the user through the choices they need to make use of the system, reducing the need for specialized training.

Delta has developed a touchscreen interface, the enteliTouch, which serves as a visual aid for surgeons and is already deployed in healthcare facilities across the world. The screen can be programmed to become green when the operating room is within proper environmental tolerances, then flash or switch to red to alert staff if the space has become compromised and patient health may be at risk. This physical interface, which has been passed by various infection control bodies to stand up to the rigours of use in a hospital, provides a fully programmable graphics-based interface for staff to interact directly with their systems. Importantly, the equipment is able to withstand repeated cleaning with sterilizing agents without its screens becoming damaged or the front plate being defaced.

The operating room environment and the equipment required to maintain it has become more complicated over the years. Operating rooms function on a complex series of air curtains that create zones of disease control, keeping patients safe from airborne contaminants. As a result, where environmental control was once a secondary consideration, it is now one of the prime concerns in maintaining patient health. If a contaminant finds its way into the space, staff need to be sure equipment is functioning properly and will continue to function in the future. What is needed for patient safety in these complex environments is a highly customizable and data-rich system.

The benefit is that this results in a smarter building that is better with its occupants: the system becomes more intuitive and predictive, operating costs are reduced, and users are encouraged to adopt greener and more economical habits. Building analytics and more intuitive systems are combining to answer today’s demands for flexible, cost-effective systems.

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