Power Quality for Healthcare Facilities
Although the electricity provided to ahealthcare facility or medical location is anabsolute necessity for healthcare providers tooperate their facilities, it is usually not givena lot of thought. The widespread growth of new and lingering illnesses and diseases, thecall for increasingly critical emergency services, and the pressure to reducehealthcare costs force healthcare providers tokeep their minds on their business—caring for their patients, enlisting the best possiblehealthcare professionals, and purchasing andinstalling the best medical equipment thatmoney can buy. Turning on a heart-lung bypass machine prior to a six-hour open-heart surgery where the operating roomlights “are always on” has become as routineas activating a medical gas supply of oxygenfor a patient and then adjusting the flow rateso the patient receives the desired amount of oxygen. Healthcare providers have little timeto be concerned with the quality of power orto find a reliable source of power to operatetheir equipment. They need quality power 24hours per day, 365 days per year. Moreover,the time spent on power quality concerns isbecoming shorter and shorter as bottom-linepressures continue to be applied.In most situations, instead of focusing onthe power quality, they have learned ways to“work around” malfunctioning and failedmedical equipment. When one blood-pressure monitor is broken (possibly from avoltage surge), a nurse or medicaltechnician goes and finds another monitor.But, in smaller healthcare facilities whereequipment may be limited, providers may find themselves with fewer pieces of redundant medical equipment and withoutresources including power to operate thefacility. To healthcare providers, themalfunction or failure of one key piece of medical equipment—a computedtomography (CT) scanner in an emergency room, for example—would be enough of aproblem to cripple the emergency medicalstaff. A second CT machine may not be anoption, and the nearest machine may bemany miles away in another hospital. Thismission-critical imaging system could betaken off-line by a minor voltage sag to 80%of nominal (i.e., a 20% sag), lasting for only three 60-hertz cycles (50 milliseconds). TheU.S. power quality community has estimatedthat $10 billion is lost yearly whenautomated control systems in industrialplants are upset by voltage sag events. Suchnumbers have not been estimatedspecifically for healthcare facilities orproviders, but one can assume that the costof downtime will also include possibly placing one or more patients at risk.
The Healthcare Environment
The healthcare environment in the UnitedStates is in continual transition in efforts toimprove patient care. Aside from thepractice of medicine, nursing, and othermedical-related fields, two areas key to thesuccess of these transitions are (1)improvements in the design, construction,and maintenance of healthcare facilities,and (2) the identification, selection,installation, and maintenance of medicalequipment. Lessons learned in the area of power quality for healthcare demonstratethat efforts made beforehand to incorporatepower quality into these two areas usually prevent significant interruptions in patientcare services and escalations in the costs of medical equipment downtime.The healthcare environment encompasseseverything associated with patient care andthe healthcare facility from the time thepatient enters the facility to the time thepatient leaves the facility. This environmentincludes healthcare functions that occuroutside and inside the facility. Healthcarefacility designers, planners, architects, andengineers and facility operating engineersand maintenance support personnel should
Healthcareproviders havelittle time to beconcerned withthe quality of power or to finda reliablesource of powerto operate theirequipment.