It Saves for Hospitals to be Energy Efficient (Part 4 of 4)

by webadmin on March 11, 2013

Today, we wrap up our look at this article by Karen Minich-Pourshadi in the January/February 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine regarding healthcare organizations that have made energy-efficient decisions, resulting in great rewards for their facilities and personnel.

Partners HealthCare in Boston, Mass., is saving $1.5 million each year after implementing a personal-computer power-management plan, Minich-Pourshadi writes. The eight-hospital network employs 5,000 physicians with an annual average of 170,000 admissions. As you can imagine, many PCs are used to manage this network—30,000 PCs to be exact.

Partners HealthCare was faced with a relatable energy-use dilemma: finding “a way to ensure that PCs were turned on only when in use.” However, “finding the right software wasn’t simple.” In fact, finding it took a year. It then took “six months to install and test it,” followed by “years to do an organizationwide phased roll out.”

But it was worth it, officials say. “In place for the past six years, the initiative is continuing to produce millions of dollars in energy savings,” Minich-Pourshadi reports.

Although Manuela Stoyanov, corporate manager of client infrastructure design for Partners, said collecting all of the data about energy usage by computers throughout the network wasn’t easy and projecting a savings estimate was nearly impossible because of the diversity of computers being used (bulky, old monitors versus newer and more economical monitors), the greatest challenge was “finding software that would work with the hospital network’s unique needs…A free power-save program it had initially tested didn’t offer enough flexibility; it needed to allow IT to dictate which pieces of equipment would go into power-save mode and when.”

Stoyanov further explained, “In clinical areas we needed the computers on 24/7, but in the offices where they leave at night we wanted those in stand-by mode. But we also needed the computers to come on for routine maintenance operations during the nights or on weekends and then go back to sleep. The freeware and other programs we researched didn’t allow us to categorize our computers this way.”

They finally settled on Verdiem Surveyor, “a product that cost them less to purchase than the first year of savings from installing it.” As they were testing the program, their local utility company NStar became fascinated with Partners’ efforts and asked if they could become involved in the test.

Stoyanov recalled, “They came in and put a wattmeter on each of the 20 computers used in the pilot. So NStar was observing and recording these computers’ power usage every morning. It turned out to be a successful experiment because NStar confirmed our energy-saving data.” It also solved the calculation issues they were having.

Minich-Pourshadi writes, “By NStar’s calculations, the changes the organization made saved $50-$60 per PC per year in electricity: When installed on the majority of the 30,000 units at Partners that translates into over $1.5 million in savings. Additionally, the organization’s energy savings earned it a $200,000 energy rebate from NStar.”

While the process to get to this point was intensive, the organization, as with every other one featured in our last few posts, wouldn’t trade the energy savings for the former way of doing things. In fact, Minich-Pourshadi believes Partners HealthCare is proof that “moving toward energy efficiency doesn’t require expansive or expensive projects; indeed, simple solutions can bring significant savings.”

After reading these last four installments, what have you gleaned from the organizations involved? What tips for your facility have you taken away? Are there any energy-efficient approaches that you can apply to your goals?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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