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How to Use Remote Monitoring to Achieve Running Hospital Systems 99.999%

By Andrew Erickson

May 20, 2024


Operational integrity of critical systems is "a goal" for successful healthcare facilities, but that word doesn't go far enough. Any power loss or communications breakdown puts vulnerable lives at risk. In hospitals, all essential equipment must be monitored to protect patient care and safety.

These critical systems can range from life-support machines in the ICU to the HVAC systems which maintain clean and controlled air. In this healthcare context, remote monitoring guarantees that everything functions properly and that patients are kept safe while receiving the care they need.

Let's look at how we can combine multiple monitoring functions into a single platform. This will give your hospital facility a detailed, real-time view of your sensitive variables like backup power status, temperature, and more.

Why Do Hospitals Need Reliable Monitoring Systems?

Consider a winter evening in your busy hospital where the HVAC system fails. This leads to dropping temperatures that critically affect patients in recovery rooms. Or imagine a scenario where an MRI machine malfunctions without immediate detection. This causes delays in critical diagnostic procedures and treatments.

Some of these examples might seem unrealistic if you've worked in healthcare for some time. That's simply because we already have requirements for backup generators and other protections. Our purpose here today is to improve even further our ability to protect hospital operations.

Without a high-quality centralized monitoring solution, healthcare facilities might experience:

  • Delayed Response Times: A lag in detecting equipment failures or environmental anomalies can lead to increased risk for patients. For example, a telecom disruption could throw nurse telemetry offline and delay emergency bedside response. A lag might also compound the problem, requiring lengthier repairs or causing permanent damage.
  • Increased Operational Costs: Frequent equipment breakdowns, inefficient energy use, and costly emergency repairs can escalate operational costs significantly. Costs are always a problem in healthcare, as they must ultimately be paid for by someone (patients, taxpayers, limited donor funds, etc.)
  • Compliance Risks: Your healthcare institution is bound by strict regulatory standards. Ineffective monitoring can lead to compliance failures, resulting in fines and penalties.

You Must Establish Centralized Monitoring of Critical Systems

To protect your hospital's operations, you must monitor several fundamental types of equipment:

Life Safety and Medical Equipment

Your monitoring system must track the operational status of standby generators, UPS backup batteries, and telecom/IT network equipment.

Protecting these support systems indirectly protects critical medical equipment such as:

  • Ventilators
  • Incubators
  • Other life-support machines

Any monitoring system that quickly identifies and addresses any malfunctions or deviations from normal operating parameters, minimizes the overall risk to patient health.

The Society of Critical Care Medicine published data stating that more than 5 million patients are admitted annually to United States Intensive Care Units (ICUs) for:

  1. Intensive or invasive monitoring
  2. Support of airway, breathing, or circulation
  3. Stabilization of acute or life-threatening medical problems
  4. Comprehensive management of injury and/or illness
  5. Increased comfort for dying patients

ICU patients may be a diverse population, but they all share the need for continual assessment and technological support.

Centralized, on-site remote monitoring keeps tabs on the devices and environmental factors of your ICU (or other important healthcare facility). That way, you can focus on the many varying needs of your patients.

Environmental Monitoring

Proper environmental conditions are crucial in healthcare settings to prevent infection spread and ensure patient comfort. A central monitoring system can monitor the following across different parts of the facility:

  • HVAC systems
  • Temperature
  • Humidity levels
  • Air quality

These environmental factors can be monitored within:

  • Operating rooms
  • Patient wards
  • Storage areas for temperature-sensitive medications and biological materials

In addition to the ultimate importance of patient safety, there are other benefits to remote monitoring. Good monitoring of conditions at your hospital optimizes energy consumption of buildings. This can significantly reduce the cost of your electric bill - as well as significantly reduce the negative impact on the global environment.

DPS Discrete Point Modules (DPMs)
The DPM is hassle free by being small in size while providing features that are usually found in larger remote telemetry units

Case Study: Fresno VA Hospital's Panic Alarm System

The Fresno VA Hospital's implementation of a panic alarm system serves as a compelling example of effective hospital monitoring.

This system addresses critical security concerns by integrating DPS Telecom's T/Mon and Discrete Point Modules (DPMs). The hospital monitors entrances, exits, windows, and panic circuits throughout the campus to prevent unauthorized access and ensure rapid response to potential threats.

The challenge was to consolidate multiple alarm points into a single, efficient system. Traditional alarm setups often lead to fragmented monitoring and delayed responses. By implementing the T/Mon, the hospital achieved centralized management, allowing authorized personnel to view the status of any alarm point from any PC on the network.

This integration streamlined the process, ensuring that alarms triggered by doors, windows, or panic buttons automatically dial out to emergency services.

This system not only enhances patient and staff safety but also exemplifies how a well-integrated monitoring solution can significantly improve response times and operational efficiency.

DPS Telecom T/Mon LNX
The T/Mon is a multiprotocol, multifunction single-platform solution for all remote alarm monitoring uses

Hospital Remote Monitoring Tool Example: T/Mon

"T/Mon" is a central remote monitoring server built by DPS Telecom. It is engineered to address general-purpose monitoring challenges, including in healthcare environments.

This includes comprehensive capabilities which that ensure all the critical systems in your healthcare facility are monitored and managed efficiently. Here's how the T/Mon handles the monitoring functions described above, as well as some more advanced functions described below:

T/Mon Monitors Important Basics Like Power & Temperature

No monitoring system for telecom in a healthcare context is worth anything if it can't keep power online and temperatures under control. T/Mon monitors backup generators, HVAC systems, and room temperatures.

Like any central master station, T/Mon accomplishes this either:

  1. Directly via protocol messages from "smart" equipment like modern generators and HVAC units, or...
  2. Via Remote Telemetry Units (RTUs) installed in various areas throughout your hospital, or...
  3. Via sensors placed throughout your facility to measure temperature, power voltages, power current, and more.

Automated Alerts and Notifications

Immediate Response Protocols

T/Mon automates the notification process when system anomalies are detected. It can send alerts to maintenance personnel or healthcare facility managers via SMS, email, or direct alarms.

For example, let's imagine T/Mon detects that a critical system (like an oxygen-supply device in an ICU) is exhibiting performance issues. The device can instantly alert technical staff, ensuring rapid response to prevent any adverse impact on patient care. Medical staff can also be alerted so that they may initiate alternative procedures for life safety.

Scheduled Maintenance and Fault Prediction

By analyzing historical data and current performance metrics, T/Mon helps predict potential system failures before they occur.

This predictive maintenance capability allows healthcare facilities to schedule repairs during non-critical times, thereby avoiding unexpected equipment downtime and ensuring continuous operation.

Integration with Security Systems

Access Control and Security Monitoring

Healthcare facilities manage sensitive areas that require restricted access, such as maternity wards, pharmacies, and records rooms. T/Mon can integrate with electronic access control systems. This allows you to monitor entry points and ensure that only authorized personnel access restricted areas. Additionally, it can manage security alarms, providing real-time alerts on security breaches or unauthorized access attempts.

Surveillance Systems

Alongside access controls, T/Mon can monitor surveillance systems throughout a healthcare facility. It ensures that all cameras and recording systems function correctly and alerts security personnel to any issues or malfunctions, thus maintaining continuous surveillance coverage. This capability also allows for remote viewing and management of surveillance systems, providing an added layer of security.

Some surveillance systems can also output contact closures or SNMP traps that can be funneled into T/Mon for monitoring.

Regulatory Compliance and Reporting

Compliance with Health Regulations

Healthcare institutions are subject to strict regulatory requirements concerning patient safety and privacy, environmental conditions, and equipment reliability. T/Mon can help ensure compliance by maintaining detailed logs of all monitored systems and alarms. You can use these logs to demonstrate compliance with health and safety regulations during audits and inspections.

Of course, precise compliance requirements vary by jurisdiction, so you should consult with your in-house counsel and management to ensure T/Mon is the right fit for your needs. It probably plays a major role, but some other elements might also be required.

Detailed Reporting for Management

T/Mon provides comprehensive reports that can be used for administrative review and decision-making. These reports:

  • Offer insights into the overall health of the facility's infrastructure
  • Highlight areas needing improvement
  • Help allocate resources more effectively

It's Time to Take Action on Your Hospital's Remote Monitoring System

Whether you are looking to improve patient safety, reduce operational costs, or ensure regulatory compliance, centralized remote monitoring (and potentially the T/Mon specifically) is the solution. By adopting this advanced monitoring technology, your healthcare institution can focus more on what you do best: providing excellent care to your patients!

Entrust the complexities of infrastructure monitoring and management to a reliable, efficient system like the T/Mon.

Your next step? Learn more about how T/Mon can transform your facility's remote monitoring capabilities.

For a helping hand with any other questions or concerns, call 1-800-693-0351 or email info@digitize-inc.com.

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...