Electronic medical systems now account for approximately 70 percent of total capital expense in a hospital,” cites Farah Saeed, program manager for backup power solutions at Frost & Sullivan (Palo Alto, Calif). Hospitals invest millions of dollars in highly sensitive medical-imaging equipment. Yet, how many dollars are actually invested in protecting that sensitive equipment from electrical anomalies and power problems? According to Ken Appelt, business development manager of healthcare at Eaton Corp (Cleveland), “Fewer than 30 percent of these [digital imaging] systems are fully protected against power problems.”
A common assumption is that protection against a power outage will safeguard the equipment’s operation. Most hospitals maintain generators that will supply power to all critical operations within 10 seconds. But does that mean that the hospital’s medical-imaging equipment is safe?
Power Quality 101
Power protection means much more than just backup power. Utility companies provide the massive amounts of electricity that hospitals consume today, but those companies cannot guarantee the continuity or clean quality of power that is needed to operate sensitive imaging equipment. Power can become “poor” or “noisy,” or it can “fluctuate,” for several reasons. Poor power quality can originate from many natural occurrences, such as trees, snow, and ice on power lines, as well as thunderstorms and wind.
However, it also can come from unnatural occurrences, including elevators within the hospital; motors or generators starting or stopping; and laser devices. In fact, Ed Ginsburg?general manager of Task Force Solutions (Anaheim, Calif), a power-protection consulting company?explains that the majority of variances in power come from within the building.
The aforementioned causes, both natural and unnatural, create power anomalies beyond complete power outages, which occur very infrequently, sometimes only once or twice per year. Sags or dips in power, which last just nanoseconds and rarely are noticeable, as well as highly noticeable brownouts, can cause system interruption, data corruption, or even complete data loss. Surges, spikes, noise, and frequency variations can cause data losses and corruptions, system glitches, and complete system shutdowns.
Undeniably, hospitals strive to provide a level of care with superior quality at the highest level of availability. Data centers specifically need to maintain a 100% uptime. Hospitals and imaging centers cannot afford system crashes, reboots, and data losses. “The technology associated with highly computerized medical-imaging equipment demands that clean power and grounds be available in order to produce the highest-resolution images possible,” says Kevin Harris, marketing manager of TEAL Electronics Corp (San Diego). Hospitals, therefore, should focus on the continuity of operations, the protection of hardware and software, the management of risk, and the quality of critical applications by protecting equipment and data from poor power quality.
Beyond the damage of equipment and the loss of software, possible imaging errors are dangerous. “Electrical noise and transients on the line can cause ‘artifacts’ in the digital image, which may result in misdiagnoses,” Harris says. Patient disruption due to power problems should be avoided as well. Appelt notes, “If the patient has been sedated, such as for a cardiac catheterization, the procedure must be rescheduled for another day.” Rescheduling is financially costly; loss of patient confidence is immeasurable.
Downtime is incredibly costly to freestanding imaging centers, as it equates to revenue loss. Restarts, system reboots, and staff and equipment downtime are financial expenses that are avoidable with proper protection against poor power quality. The investment in power protection often pays for itself with the avoidance of one or more power interruptions?not to mention the resulting expensive equipment damage, software corruption or loss, and downtime. In the words of Aldo Falossi, marketing and business development manager at Mission Critical Power Solutions (MCPS of Chino, Calif), “An ounce of protection can save a ton of disaster.”
Why Do It?
When sensitive electronic equipment, such as medical-imaging devices, is fully protected against power problems, hospitals and freestanding imaging centers maintain failure-resistant infrastructures, fault-tolerant operations, and highly available equipment. Checks and balances exist within the functionality of the system to produce continuous operation, ensuring that patient care and equipment availability are not compromised.
With adequate power protection, employees are more productive without having to reboot or reconfigure devices or computers when a sag hits the power line. What is more, profits are improved with the reduction of downtime caused by power interruptions.
In addition to protecting the equipment and operations from disturbances and interruptions, power protection actually can extend the life of imaging equipment. Good power quality often prevents unseen or unnoticeable degradation of sensitive and expensive components within the equipment, thus protecting the health of the devices. Ginsburg of Task Force Solutions explains that preventing degradation or electronic stress is similar to preventing the development of rust on an automobile, as electronic stress directly affects the long-term health of the imaging devices.
A How-To Guide
Usually, the first step in protecting medical-imaging equipment is to have a power-protection company conduct an on-site survey or power-quality audit. These surveys usually include on-site inspections of equipment and wiring, as well as power monitoring and testing, to illustrate an imaging center’s or hospital’s need to protect their large financial investments in imaging devices. A power-quality audit will illustrate “targeted identification of power deficiencies and the risks they present,” Appelt says.
After completing the risk analysis, determine which products to purchase for full protection at the right price. Although several products exist within the power-protection marketplace for various needs within a medical-imaging facility, such as power-distribution units (PDUs) and isolation transformers, two commonly used forms of protection are uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) and surge suppression or transient voltage surge suppression devices. In general, a UPS provides power conditioning and battery backup, while surge-suppression devices protect at the facility level, at the data center, or through the UPS.
UPS devices can protect data in the event of an unexpected power loss by providing backup power. A common misconception, however, is that UPSs are used only for power backup. Alan Katz, UPS systems product manager of MGE UPS Systems (Costa Mesa, Calif), explains that power outages are very infrequent and occur only once or twice per year. UPSs can be used in medical applications to condition the power and protect against the more frequent power-quality disturbances.
Three different types of UPS devices exist within the market: standby, line-interactive, and online. Standby UPS devices, used for less-critical applications, remain offline until power fails or fluctuates greatly. Line-interactive units are similar to standby devices, but also they provide “constant monitoring of the integrity of the input power,” says Frost & Sullivan’s Saeed. Online (also called double-conversion) units are the most sophisticated type of UPS designed for mission-critical applications that must constantly be up and running. “An online unit uses its battery to deliver the power to the attached load,” MCPS’s Falossi says.
John Donovan, director of the healthcare market at American Power Conversion (APC of West Kingston, RI), says that in terms of what equipment needs to be protected, “The strategy is to protect the whole foundation, not just the modality.”
Viswas Purani, director of emerging technologies and applications at APC, explains exactly what can be protected at each level, depending on the critical application of the modality and the facility’s available budget:
- entire room/facility protection (CT, MRI, PET, and other radiology rooms deploying high-end floor-mounted modalities) requires a large UPS in the range of 300?500 kilovolt amperes (kVA);
- entire modality protection (CT, MRI, PET, SPECT, and other floor-mounted modalities) requires a medium-size UPS in the range of 50?250 kVA; and
- protection of only the electronics and computer systems of a modality requires a small UPS in the range of 5?10 kVA.
“In situations where budget is a major constraint,” Purani says, “at a minimum, the electronics and computer systems of a modality should be protected.” That will prevent damage to the electronics and power supplies that cause downtime, compromised patient care, and service expenses.
Surge-suppression devices often are used in conjunction with or to complement UPSs. Ginsburg explains that these devices are used to protect the UPS device, to act as “the guard at the gate.” Surge-suppression devices reduce or eliminate electrical noise and transients that help to decrease damage to and downtime of medical-imaging equipment.
Where’s the Remote?
Remote power monitoring, available from many power-protection companies, offers the most reliability to a power-protection system. Because the life of a battery and other components in a UPS are nearly impossible to predict, monitoring those critical mechanisms for any performance problems or failures is essential for maintaining power protection, and, therefore, the functionality of critical applications.
According to Katz, “The best reliable way to ensure the health of your batteries, and, in turn, your entire system, is to install a reliable battery-monitoring system.” Most monitors are accessible via the Internet or by direct connection, are available 24/7, and have customer-defined alarms and escalation procedures. Power-monitoring systems improve reliability by monitoring the UPS system and batteries constantly, increasing uptime, and reducing service calls and costs. Purani says that by proactively managing the power-protection system, the medical-imaging structure becomes “self-diagnosing and self-healing.”
According to Frost & Sullivan, the diagnostic-imaging market now encompasses not just diagnostic-imaging modalities but also PACS and 3-D imaging. 1 As technology advances, the means to protect critical applications also must advance to avoid crippling losses of equipment and data within medical-imaging facilities. The power to do so is ready and waiting.
- Frost & Sullivan. Medical imaging industry page. Available at: http://www.frost.com/prod/servlet/vp-further-info.pag?mode=open&sid=2850207 . Accessed June 7, 2005.
NEW POWER STRATEGY FOR
Concord Hospital (Concord, NH) is one of the busiest acute care hospitals in the state, with 205 beds and, in 2004, 15,550 admissions. According to Gary Light, CTO of the filmless facility, administrators decided to rebuild the hospital’s data center, which housed a legacy UPS system. Light explains that with the evolution of technology at Concord and the need for more and more computers, a new data center was needed, as the old had been outgrown.
Because of the 24/7 availability needed at the data center, the computers require immediate backup in the case of a power outage or disturbance. This necessity is more backup capability than the hospital’s generator can provide. Concord cannot afford the risk of data corruption, hardware failures, and financial repercussions. When a power disruption occurs, the hospital could spend “tens of thousands of dollars in time to get the systems restored,” Light says. “[The facility] spends more time reviewing the data than acquiring it.”
Therefore, the hospital chose to concentrate on protecting the data center by using uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) and power-distribution units (PDUs) from American Power Conversion (APC) to protect the historical data and the workstations that interface with the modalities.
APC became the chosen power-protection provider for several reasons, including the components’ redundancy and fault tolerance. According to APC, redundancy essentially “means running one extra module than necessary to support your full load. In this way, all of the modules support one another,” making this feature good for disaster-recovery and business-continuity planning. 1
Of the hospital’s legacy system, Light notes, “If you lose the power module, you lose the system.” With the APC system, however, if one power module fails, there is a backup. Light adds that if a failure occurs with the UPS, “It’s sustainable, recoverable, and doesn’t disrupt the system.”
Scalability was another plus of APC’s system. Concord’s data center is larger than the hospital needs, which allows space for growth but doesn’t require all units to be purchased up front. The APC design is modular, allowing for additional unit purchases in the future and offering a lower cost of ownership. With the system enabling Concord to “scale up as needed,” Light explains, “[the hospital] reduced significant capital cost outlay by being able to defer purchases.”
A final deciding factor was the APC system’s serviceability and management features. Light explains that the system is very user-friendly; the modules can be removed and replaced easily by hospital staff; and the remote-monitoring system displays when the battery fails.
A PLETHORA OF
American Power Conversion (APC)
Atlantic Scientific Corporation (ASC)
MGE UPS Systems
Mission Critical Power Solutions (MCPS)
Power Innovations (Lindon, Utah)
TEAL Electronics Corp
Nici Lewis is a contributing writer for Medical Imaging.