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Intelligent building technologies are enablers: Sanjay Sudhakaran

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Sanjay Sudhakaran, VP, Digital Energy, Schneider Electric India expands on how their solutions are helping hospitals cope with the new normal in a post COVID world, by ensuring can intelligently take care of itself, ensuring staff and patient safety while rationalising operational costs through the continuum of care, in an interaction with Viveka Roychowdhury

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stress test for all sectors, but as frontline workers, hospitals are expected to care for patients at affordable rates, as well as safeguard their staff. How can healthcare facilities continue to do it in an economically feasible fashion? Where can they further cut costs related to infrastructure like building maintenance, etc?

Healthcare facilities have been challenged in an unprecedented way in the last few months including the stress to cut costs and ensure the safety of the patients and staff.

Overall, any healthcare facility should be designed and built to provide secure and healthy environment for patients, visitors and staff members. Hospital induced infections are also common. With all this, they need to be designed to be safe for the care givers, healthcare workers and patients inside that environment. In order to minimise the risk of infection among patients and staff, healthcare facilities have to take care of new and critical requirements for their building operations.

Ensuring efficient and optimal operation of their HVAC systems, building out temporary spaces, creating virtual care options, transitioning spaces for different uses, and leveraging remote operation tools are a few examples of transitions to the new normal today.

We also need to ensure that the healthcare workers are focused more on patient care and less on infrastructure care. So ideally, there should be more people for attending patients and the infrastructure should be equipped to take care of itself, intelligently.

Schneider Electric’s intelligent technologies support hospitals as they adjust to these new requirements, as well as reduce overall building maintenance expenses.

We help in the management of air quality within the healthcare facility which mitigates the risks of hospital acquired infections.

Our strong analytics layer helps in continuous monitoring of the facility. We can continuously record and analyse the performance of critical areas and plan for proactive maintenance on electrical, mechanical and IT equipment used in those areas.

Our systems provide critical alerts to facility and clinical staff when safety might be compromised, limiting exposure to risk and related costs as well as manage the number of people in the facility and movement, access control

We help facilities teams and advisors maintain extraordinary operations, so their clinical teams can continuously deliver extraordinary care, every day.

Our predictive energy management platform automates resources—so when rooms are unoccupied, the conditions are automatically adjusted to conserve energy.

Overall, as healthcare facilities have geared up to combat COVID-19, the intelligent building technologies are enablers, ensuring staff and patient safety while rationalising operational costs through the continuum of care.

Healthcare equipment are lifesaving but consume a lot of electricity and maintenance is costly. How can analytics and digitisation help in cutting costs, making systems more efficient and yet deploy less people?

Healthcare equipment are an integral part of the hospital infrastructure. An intelligent technology infrastructure integrates traditionally disparate systems and equipment enable real time monitoring, optimisation and automation.

Digitising and connecting the individual equipment and integrating it into energy management systems using our IoT platform can help with substantial cost savings.

Here is how we achieve this:

  • In healthcare there is no time for downtime. By enabling predictive analytics we can anticipate and manage any power related breakdowns even before they can happen. This can help us ensure that the equipment is in best health and any issues can be combated even before they arise. By keeping the equipment in best health, one can not only maximise the throughput from the machines but also ensure that they are not consuming more power than they should. This will further lead to cost savings.
  • Poor power quality is the major contributor for equipment damages and loss of machine hours. With the help of our power monitoring systems, power reliability issues can be detected earlier, and automated recommendations can help to speed resolution.
  • In these rather unique times, faced with an unprecedented health crisis, we were challenged with shortage of manpower to manage facilities. And there has been one clear winner in this process – digitisation. Remote management of electrical and mechanical equipment has now become the new order of the day. In the Digital Building solutions, all the data coming in from various sensors is stored, processed and analysed in cloud, using Big Data, Artificial intelligence/ Machine learning technologies to provide real time visibility and actionable insights for efficient and secure operations of the hospitals.

How painful (in terms of cost, training, deployment and use) is it to shift from legacy energy infrastructure to the solutions and technologies available from the Digital Energy/ Digital Building solutions portfolio of Schneider Electric India?

There are numerous challenges faced during the digital transformation of a legacy infrastructure.  It is here that Schneider Electric’s expertise comes into play to decipher and evolve a legacy infrastructure into a digital future ready facility. Our modernisation solutions use innovative IOT enabled technology to create world class energy efficient solutions for our customers. Our solutions are modular and interoperable, so our customers can plan their digital journey, starting with the part that are most critical for them and then covering all the aspects to achieve their energy efficiency, digitisation, sustainability or security goals.

Our solutions in this space include power, building or IT management, and then evolve step by step towards an all-digital all-electrical healthcare infrastructure, making healthcare facilities more resilient, sustainable, people-centric and hyper efficient.

In most cases, we analyse and propose solutions basis the requirement and the budget. We also guarantee ROI within a stipulated time. Once deployed, these solutions are simple and easy to operate and maintain. In healthcare infrastructure around the world we have enabled hospitals to get the ROI on their CapEx investment within a span of a few years.

Are these solutions available across the scale, from small nursing homes to large hospital chains?

At the core of our EcoStruxure platform is scalability. We deploy different solutions to cater to the requirement of the specific healthcare facility – big or small. Our open, end-to-end IP architecture enables quick, connectivity of IoT devices for increased scalability and faster commissioning and changes.

In the past, we have designed and deployed solutions for laboratories, clinics, small nursing homes, pharmacies, old-age homes, long term medical centers, small capacity 30 bed hospitals extending to over 5000 bed hospitals. Our solutions are scalable and available both at local as well as enterprise level where we can connect multiple small clinics to the main hospital or even multiple hospitals to the primary hospital of large hospital chains.

For large infrastructure, we also help in creating an Integrated Command & Control Center ensuring the overall integration of surveillance, patient’s data, self-sustained microgrid solutions, end-to-end resources management system and integrated Building Management System. This transformation is being supported by connected products, edge control, applications, advance analytics, and services.

Can you give some use case examples of the ROI of some of these systems deployed?

At the University of Rochester Medical Center USA, facilities team, we have built the ability to manage the performance of assets with real-time insights on the status of electrical distribution equipment, allowing for a better decision-making process. This predictive, “condition-based” maintenance drives significant cost savings and efficiencies as compared to the riskier reactive-based maintenance approach. Through this the hospital recorded savings of $1million and ROI of 20X.

At Grand Medica Hospital in Russia, we helped create a state-of-the-art hospital in a building not designed for that purpose.  EcoStruxure for healthcare solutions drive a connected, integrated system offering for complete visibility.  The resulted in reduced thermal energy consumption at the hospital reduced by nearly a third. Further, the solution optimised electrical distribution system for future upgrades ensuring in CapEx savings of $176,000 due to product compatibility. It also helped in reducing electrical operational costs by 20 per cent.

In India we have also collaborated with our healthcare customers during their time of need. In multiple hospitals across the country, we have deployed end to end IoT enabled EcoStruxure solution, built ground up Microgrids for sustained power supply and deployed our remote management systems to combat the challenges during the pandemic. 

What has been your engagement with public sector healthcare facilities?

We have engaged with our public sector healthcare heads, policy makers and government agencies in multiple thought leadership forums and workshops to align with them on their vision for healthcare in India.

We are currently working with industry and government bodies of Delhi, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, etc. to deploy our solutions across multiple healthcare facilities in the respective states.

We have also been very actively working with the government bodies in each state and have supplied our solutions to multiple hospitals across the country.

We have also engaged with public sector healthcare facilities in many countries across the globe.

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