Hospitals have a lot on their plates these days. From the soaring costs of healthcare delivery to the Affordable Care Act and stringent regulatory environment, the healthcare industry is experiencing enormous change. To compound matters, Medicare and Medicaid continue to increase pay-for-performance measures that impact hospital reimbursement rates and revenue.
As a result, hospitals are consistently challenged to do more with less. Most available revenue is reinvested into medical equipment and technology that allows them to offer enhanced patient care. Because of these circumstances, facility needs are traditionally a very low priority for hospitals. Most “operate to fail,” only fixing or upgrading when something breaks or negatively affects patient or employee satisfaction.
However, more innovative hospitals are starting to change their approach to facility enhancements. They are realizing that upgrading their HVAC, lighting, and other facility maintenance can dramatically improve energy efficiency, which leads not only to reduced energy costs and budget relief, but also helps create a more comfortable, safe, and healthy physical environment that can enable better patient outcomes and help survey results.
According to an article in MCD (Medical Construction & Design) Magazine, hospitals rank among the most energy-intensive types of buildings. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says acute-care hospitals use more than 2.5 times the energy per square foot of a typical U.S. commercial building. Also according to the DOE, hospitals collectively spend more than $5B annually on energy, so a 30% improvement in energy efficiency would yield about $1.5B a year in value for the U.S. healthcare system.
While energy consumption can vary based on a number of factors, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that as much as 70% of a typical hospital’s energy use goes to lighting and HVAC. The good news for hospitals is that there are many energy efficiency measures for these areas that can be implemented with little to no upfront capital costs and can provide excellent return on investment, often paying for themselves many times over the life of a typical hospital. There are also creative financing solutions available that guarantee energy and operating savings that can then be used to fund the energy improvement project without impacting the existing budget.
Lighting and HVAC upgrades and integration
Indoor and outdoor lighting upgrades using LED technologies use significantly less energy, require less maintenance, and offer better lighting and increased safety. On average, lighting replacement can reduce lighting costs by an average of 38% in a typical hospital.
More importantly, lighting upgrades have been shown to improve the care environment for hospital patients. Various studies show that patients with greater exposure to daylight perceive less pain, require fewer medications, and check out sooner than patients whose exposure to natural light is limited. Lighting automation and controls, such as daylight harvesting, can reduce energy costs as well as maximize the amount of daylight in patient rooms and common areas, and supplement outdoor lighting with artificial lighting to maintain consistent and ideal lighting levels.
HVAC also places large demands on a hospital system’s energy budget and can also play a critical role in creating an improved healing environment. Modern HVAC technologies can help hospitals maintain optimum indoor temperature, air circulation, and humidity levels and address such issues as indoor air quality (IAQ). The Center for Health Design found 120 independent studies linking IAQ and other physical factors to the incidence of hospital-acquired infections, which contribute to about 75,000 deaths per year in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control. Integrating lighting, HVAC, and automation controls allow these critical systems to work together to maximize energy efficiency and create an optimal indoor environment.
The MCD article suggests that hospitals looking to develop an energy-efficiency strategy should start with a comprehensive energy audit from a qualified energy services company. This will provide the hospital with vital information about building performance, uncover all energy-efficiency opportunities, and ensure the building systems are operating effectively and efficiently.
Saving energy by improving lighting and HVAC technologies and integrating controls provides an excellent opportunity to reduce costs; improve environmental performance; and create a better place for patients, medical staff, administrators and visitors.
Read the complete MCD article to get more details on how hospitals can raise the bar on energy efficiency and patient care through lighting and HVAC enhancements and integration.