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Beyond the Backup Generator: Three Focus Areas for Building Your Health Care Technology Resilience

Resilience is a term everyone is using these days – which makes sense given the pandemic and the extreme weather events of the last couple of years. But what does resiliency mean for the health care industry? We in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sector think it means having a plan and backup equipment so that you maintain the highest levels of patient care – even during unplanned power outages. More resiliency helps build better continuity of patient care. As you create a plan to boost your organization’s resilience, make sure to target these three important areas.

 

1. Cybersecurity

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report, cyberattacks are in the top 10 for the likeliest and most impactful disruptions to happen to businesses. The more Internet of Things (IOT) technology is used, the more vulnerable health care facilities are to attack. But there’s no silver bullet product that can protect your energy systems from all cyberattacks. So, what can you do?  

According to the American Hospital Association’s John Riggi, “it’s critical to view cybersecurity as a patient safety, enterprise risk and strategic priority and instill it into the hospital’s existing enterprise, risk management, governance and business continuity framework.” Your cybersecurity team can bolster your resiliency, but in many instances, humans are the weakest link. So essentially, you need to bring your whole organization on board as champions of cybersecurity practices. 

 

2. Comprehensive Power Reliability 

Previously, backup systems were prioritized around life safety, followed by the critical and equipment branches. Today, hospitals are a beacon of the community during disasters and extreme weather events. Whether there’s a pandemic or a hurricane, people come to the local hospital for food, shelter and medical help. So, the latest best practice is to install enough backup electrical generation to cover the entire health campus for both short-term and rare longer-term unplanned outages. 

Keep in mind that campuswide backup systems generally include generators, uninterruptible power supplies, microgrids, battery storage and in some cases solar installations working together. If you have basic backup equipment now, remember much of this equipment has become more efficient and responsive in recent years. So, consider upgrading your equipment and adding support devices to get the most out of your resiliency for your whole campus.  

 

3. Connectivity 

More and more hospitals are being built as smart buildings. This means everything from patient monitors and temperature sensors to automatic environmental controls for chillers and boilers are connected in a vast web. Equipment in hospital rooms, surgery suites and the HVAC department are all communicating. Resilient communications drive protocols for everything from patient charting via electronic medical records to day-to-day staffing and automated inventory control of supplies.  

As you write your resiliency plan, make sure to include all the smart sensors and responsive controls that keep you up and running. Advanced control boards in these machines may mean you need power conditioning equipment to protect them from power spikes and voltage variations. Make sure to consult your facilities management team and/or an energy advisor to confirm you have added the proper equipment needed to protect delicate health care equipment. A little advanced planning can help reduce repairs.  

 

Resiliency touches every aspect of patient care.

You probably have some resiliency equipment already in place. So why push to be more resilient? Aside from the last couple of years showing us that we should never underestimate the unexpected – it’s simple. Patient satisfaction. 

It begins the moment patients set foot on the property and only ends weeks or months later after recovery at home. These days, hospitals are competing for the right to provide care. Patient satisfaction drives reimbursement from the government through Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey scores. Resiliency in the three areas above all play a direct role in patient satisfaction.  

Imagine if the power goes out and surgeries or tests need to be rescheduled. Your hospital could lose revenue. Plus, people are the most vulnerable when it comes to their health. According to an analysis of 40 studies, patients reported “more beneficial health behaviors, less symptoms and higher quality of life” as well as more satisfaction in their care when they had confidence in their health care providers. In other words, higher patient satisfaction equals higher patient confidence. And that’s just the beginning.  

Patient confidence helps make patient, family and staff interactions smoother and less stressful for everyone. That can help your staff do an even better job. A hospital with full technology resilience sets the stage for a positive feedback loop – where delivery of care, patient satisfaction and patient confidence can help your staff and hospital thrive in the long term.  

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