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The Role of UPSs in Healthcare IT

Healthcare information technology (HIT) systems ― which process information involving storage, retrieval, sharing, and use of healthcare data and knowledge for both communication and decision-making purposes ― are critical to the successful operation of any healthcare organization. Designed to enhance the quality of care, HIT systems enable a broad range of activities in hospitals and other medical environments, ranging from simple charting to advanced decision support.

When it comes to ensuring the reliability of HIT systems, uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) are just what the doctor ordered. Deployed in healthcare IT settings, UPS systems represent a vital lifeline that helps to improve patient safety and quality of care, satisfy compliance requirements and preserve data integrity, among other benefits. By safeguarding against a loss of power, uninterruptible power supplies help HIT systems operate as intended ― reducing human errors, improving clinical outcomes, facilitating care coordination and improving efficiencies in medical environments.

The Importance of Uninterruptible Power Supplies in Hospitals

From ever-increasing extreme weather events to animal interference to the nation’s aging electric grid, today’s mission-critical healthcare environments face an exhaustive list of uptime challenges. Because so many medical devices rely on continuous, clean power to operate ― including diagnostic medical equipment, monitoring devices and life support systems ― even a momentary power glitch can result in equipment malfunctions or failures that can jeopardize patient safety. Ensuring a consistent power supply to HIT systems is just as important. By minimizing the potential for disruptions, keeping critical healthcare systems up and running in the event of a power outage, and providing carry-over capabilities while backup generators power on, uninterruptible power supplies help medical personnel to:  

Deliver Reliable Care

When a blackout occurs in a healthcare setting, UPSs are instrumental in ensuring continuity of patient care. Just consider the numerous HIT systems that are relied upon to improve patient safety and quality of care. If staff is unable to access electronic patient medical records and digital systems, it can compromise treatment. For example, physicians that cannot view images of X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) may be unable to accurately assess a patient’s injuries. Maintaining 24/7 access to reliable medical information can play a huge role in patient outcomes.

Protect Patient Data.

Preventing the loss of critical patient data is another key role of UPS systems in HIT infrastructure. Uninterruptible power supplies ensure that essential structures such as electronic health records (EHRs) and communication systems remain operational during power outages and do not lead to disruptions in patient care. Patient information must be readily accessible at all times; hospital and healthcare data centers are responsible for housing hundreds of thousands of records that may need to be retrieved, stored or transmitted to continue patient care. This includes general patient information, testing data, imaging files, scheduling information, VPNs and video conferencing software for telemedicine, historical data and other critical data.

UPSs also safeguard data during outages so healthcare staff doesn’t have to resort to time-consuming and less efficient paper-based patient records. Without reliable backup power, workers would be unable to perform routine yet critical tasks, such as reading or updating patient notes and communicating with other departments.

In addition, UPS systems provide a buffer period that allows for the safe shutdown of HIT systems or transfer of operations to a backup power source such as a generator. Unexpected power interruptions can result in data corruption or loss, which in turn jeopardizes the integrity and security of patient records, many of which contain sensitive and confidential information.

Ensure Compliance

All healthcare organizations must adhere to strict regulatory standards and compliance requirements, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). These regulations mandate that patient data be protected and proper business continuity measures implemented. Deploying uninterruptible power supplies helps healthcare organizations to meet these regulatory requirements and avoid potential legal and financial consequences associated with data breaches or service interruptions. Furthermore, because the healthcare sector places a higher demand on the continuous availability of data center services ― sparked by HIPPA’s rigid data security and privacy standards ― patient records must remain secure and accessible even during an outage. Implementing reliable power backup systems helps organizations to comply with these regulations by ensuring the availability and integrity of critical healthcare data.

Reduce Downtime Costs

Downtime in healthcare IT can be a bitter pill to swallow. The cost of lost productivity, potential legal consequences, and the impact on patient care can be substantial. While the price tag is often exorbitant in any industry, healthcare entities face an exceptionally steep toll: a Ponemon Institute report assessed the typical cost of an outage in the medical sector at $7,900 per minute. Investing in UPS systems is a proactive measure to mitigate these costs by ensuring continuous operation and minimizing the impact of power-related disruptions.

Improve Operational Efficiency

Some modern UPS systems even offer the capability to help a healthcare facility improve efficiency. By providing valuable insight into energy usage through power monitoring, the UPS enables healthcare personnel to optimize power consumption and energy management for reduced operational costs.

How to Monitor Your Power

By providing real-time health updates on UPS status, power monitoring helps ensure that healthcare power protection systems are functioning correctly and will perform as needed when there is a loss of power. Monitoring of UPS systems is also essential to meet many compliance requirements.

By monitoring devices, medical facilities can maintain the availability of essential systems by detecting potential problems or failures early, facilitating timely response and resolution. Monitoring is also instrumental in enabling proactive maintenance and reducing the risk of sudden UPS failures, thereby preventing downtime and its associated costs. There are many types of monitoring that can benefit healthcare IT infrastructure:

  1. Real-time monitoring provides instantaneous data about UPS status, such as input and output voltage, frequency, load levels, battery health and runtime
  2. Remote capabilities allow users to manage and monitor a UPS even when they are not physically on-site
  3. Automated alerts notify specified users of critical events, such as loss of power, low battery levels, overload conditions and fault indicators
  4. Battery monitoring ascertains the health and status of UPS batteries to avoid unexpected battery failure and recognize when batteries need to be replaced
  5. Load monitoring helps ensure that the UPS is operating within its designed capacity, as overloading can lead to reduced battery runtime, drops in efficiency and even system failure
  6. Environmental monitoring tracks the ambient temperature and humidity around the UPS, as excessive heat or humidity can impact performance and battery life
  7. Training and documentation ensures that staff knows how to interpret UPS monitoring data, respond to alerts, and understands troubleshooting, maintenance and emergency actions

Monitor Your Hospital UPSs With Unified Power

The importance of uninterruptible power supplies in global healthcare IT environments cannot be overstated. UPS systems are essential to maintain continuous operations, ensure patient care and safety, preserve data integrity, uphold compliance requirements, reduce errors, protect data exchange and improve efficiency. Across the increasingly digital and interconnected healthcare environment, UPS systems represent a critical component of the infrastructure needed to support these vital healthcare functions.

In healthcare applications, where even the slightest loss of power can represent the difference between life and death, it is critical that uninterruptible power systems and backup generators remain up and running when needed. That’s why regular preventive maintenance is an integral component to any healthy power protection strategy. And just as you would seek out a skilled doctor to perform open heart surgery, it is essential to engage qualified and trusted professionals to assist with the maintenance of critical power equipment.

Backed by more than three decades in the industry, Unified Power is uniquely qualified to help safeguard healthcare environments with the highest quality power protection solutions, maintenance packages, UPS batteries, battery monitoring and other key services. Our experienced, knowledgeable technicians are dedicated to helping ensure the ongoing, optimal performance of UPS systems and generators in the health care sector, including properly addressing compliance requirements such as HIPAA and Life Safety Codes like NFPA 101. Contact us today to learn more. 

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