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G & R Controls: Making Local Healthcare Facilities "Smarter"

Nov 20, 2020 11:19AM ● By Med Magazine

Pictured Above: System Specialist Mike Uken making adjustments to airflow using Desigo CC.

The ability to automate various aspects of a building's environment is perhaps nowhere as vital as it is in healthcare, where things like temperature, humidity, and air pressure can mean the difference between health and illness, profitability and expense, happy and disgruntled patients, or even life and death. 

The professionals at G & R Controls, a division of HVAC Elements, are the region's leaders in designing and maintaining these so called "smart" buildings. Using building automation technology such as Desigo CC, an integrated building management platform developed by Siemens, systems specialists like Mike Uken can enable owners to regulate virtually any aspect of a building's environment with the touch of a screen or the click of a mouse. 

"We deal with the configuration of the controllers, networking everything together, developing specialized control programs, and building the graphical user interface," says Uken, a mechanical engineer with G & R Controls for more than 18 years. After installation, Uken's team trains facility operators to use the technology and provides ongoing maintenance. "We are able to integrate floor plans into the software so the user can navigate around their building the way they're used to seeing it."

What is a Smart Healthcare Facility?

Nurse at Prairie Lakes Healthcare, Watertown viewing the occupied/unoccupied status of the floor to decide which room to assign to a new patient.

At its core, a "smart" healthcare facility is a building with integrated technology that lets the environment adapt to the needs of both patients and staff. This can be anything from allowing patients to regulate temperature themselves, to more complex humidity, CO2 level, or air pressure monitors and controls for areas such as operating rooms, sanitation rooms, or laundry areas. 

"When I think of a 'smart' building, I think of bringing more of those control aspects down to the occupant level," says Uken. "In a healthcare environment, especially in a patient room, where the patient's comfort is a high concern, we want them to have a real time representation of what the actual temperature in the room is and give them the ability to adjust as needed."

Environmental parameters can be displayed right on the wall of the room in question and/or on a remote monitor at the nurses' station. Sensors can be tied to a monitoring system that sets off an alarm - or even sends an email or text message - if pre-determined parameters go out of range. This can be especially critical in environmentally sensitive areas such as pharmacies, ICUs, and laboratories.

Automating Environments, Improving Efficiency

Not only can a smart system allow for simple, real-time tracking and regulation of environmental parameters, but it can automate them, too. The ability to do things such as "power on" a patient room shortly before it will be occupied or adjust the temperature set-points in an unoccupied hospital wing improves efficiency and lowers costs, keeping both building owners and occupants happier.

"It's all about efficiency," says Uken. "For instance, we can set it up so that a nurse can cycle the system into 'occupied mode' as part of the check-in process. So that, by the time the patient gets to the room, they would be able to set their own temperature." The check-out process can be designed to do just the opposite. 

Automation systems like Desigo CC make data reporting easier, too. All environmental parameters can be tracked, verified, and archived long-term.

"The great thing about being an independent field office for Siemens is that we can take a local approach to meet the specific needs of the facility we're working with, but we get to use these high-end components," says Uken. This includes everything from the sensor level all the way up to the computer workstation and the automation software running it. "We can tailor the entire system to fit any customer's situation," he says. 

HVAC Elements - 4909 North Lewis Ave Sioux Falls SD

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