Designing good power quality into the foundations of new hospitals, Steve Hughes reports
In June 2020, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a speech announcing some plans for the nation’s recovery from lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic. This recovery plan included the availability of funds for the NHS, part of which would support the building of new hospitals. These new buildings would allow healthcare providers to ensure reliable power supply for medical equipment from the outset.
The UK healthcare sector is one that has been pushed to its limits repeatedly in recent years. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, there were several reports — especially in winter months — of the pressures placed on the NHS. These challenges only increased during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ahead of its 2019 annual conference, the Conservative party set out plans to build 40 new hospitals as a way of alleviating pressure on the healthcare system. The first funding injection to support some of these new hospitals was announced in June 2020, as Boris Johnson encouraged Britain to ‘build, build, build’ to recover from COVID-19.
A lot of planning goes into building a new hospital. In addition to the size of the premises, the location of the building and the services offered, there is also the matter of investing in medical technology (MedTech) that can provide the best care to patients.
As with many other industries, healthcare has benefitted from the technological boom of the past 20 years. More electrified systems and improved imaging technologies make the quality of diagnosis far greater than it was previously, while digital bed management systems help healthcare professionals to manage the thousands of patients that pass through hospitals daily.
The key to success with these systems is a reliable supply of power to ensure correct performance and, for diagnostic equipment, accurate readings. However, this becomes harder to achieve as more electrical and electronic devices are introduced to a network.
For example, most electronic device and battery chargers use switch-mode power supplies (SMPSs) to deliver power to the connected device. SMPSs can introduce high frequency electrical noise into a network, which can in turn lead to power quality problems such as harmonic distortion that affect the stability of power supply.
When enough electronic devices are in one network, such as in a hospital environment, it can create an electrically noisy environment with often unpredictable power.
Fortunately, there are steps that electrical and design engineers can take to mitigate for these problems. An effective medical mains filter, such as those provided by REO UK, can be integrated into large medical devices to prevent high-frequency components from creating mains network interference. Similarly, networks can make use of isolating medical transformers like the REOMED range to provide safe isolation of devices and protect staff from the risk of voltage spikes.
Whereas older hospital environments have had to retrofit power quality components into networks and devices to ensure reliability and safety as technology has developed, new hospital buildings can integrate such measures from the outset. This ensures stable power and reliable equipment operation from the moment the hospital opens.
As we explored in our R30 e-book, there are many medical problems that can arise from poor power quality. Investing in the right components at the earliest point, and working with a power quality specialist like REO UK, is vital to securing the supply of power to hospitals and supporting a stable healthcare recovery from lockdown.
Steve Hughes is managing director of medical power electronics specialist REO UK.