Learn how top pediatric hospital Children’s of Alabama is thwarting disaster via power monitoring technology

By Ed Spears and Fred Blackmon

Hospitals and healthcare facilities today realize the significant impact technology plays in delivering quality care to patients and, as a result, take their investments in tech seriously. This is especially true when it comes to power protection and management, which helps facilities avoid the dangers that come with power outages.

Birmingham-based Children’s of Alabama is a pediatric medical center at the forefront of healthcare innovation, and the organization understands the importance of avoiding unplanned downtime. We’ve had the pleasure of working with the organization for many years to establish a power management solution that aligns with its mission to provide the finest pediatric health services, utilizing highly reliable uninterruptible power systems (UPSs) and monitoring capabilities to ensure critical systems remain up-and-running.

Ranked among the best pediatric hospitals in the nation by the U.S. News & World Report, Children’s of Alabama has provided specialized medical care for ill and injured children for more than 100 years. Patients come from every county across Alabama, as well as from numerous other states and foreign countries, accounting for more than 677,000 outpatient visits and 15,000 inpatient admissions in 2016 alone.

Minimizing Equipment Downtime

Despite advances in modern-day power protection solutions, many customers operating large systems like Children’s of Alabama remain vulnerable during a power failure. The banks of lead acid batteries responsible for maintaining critical loads have long been regarded as the most susceptible part of any UPS, with battery failure ranking as a leading cause of power-related downtime. In fact, 75% of unplanned outages can be attributed to battery failure.

The more facilities like Children’s of Alabama know about the health and status of their batteries—and the more detailed and current that information is—the better their chances of thwarting disaster.

It’s a risk that Children’s of Alabama has taken very seriously. The medical center has a wide variety of UPSs tasked with ensuring continuous uptime to a range of critical equipment within the hospital, from essential IT equipment to networking devices and other systems.   

For instance, if an MRI went down while a patient was in it, the consequences would be costly for Children’s of Alabama many ways. Not only would it likely result in significant delays, including having to reschedule the patient, the data going into the MRI would be lost. Having reliable emergency power helps to ensure this type of information is preserved—an increasingly important function in today’s data-driven healthcare landscape.

Similarly, unexpected downtime can significantly impact other vital operations across the site. If Children’s of Alabama lost power to its telephone/electrical room (TER), for instance, its staff would lose access to all telephones and computers in the building, resulting in lapses in communication.

Accepting the Challenge

Approximately 15 years ago, Children’s of Alabama was introduced to Eaton through the Blackmon Agency, a local manufacturing representative. Ever since, we’ve worked together to addresses the risk of downtime disaster by establishing a comprehensive power management plan designed to maintain UPS equipment and power management systems while ensuring uptime of the hospital’s critical systems.

To safeguard its equipment, Children’s of Alabama has strategically utilized a team of UPSs. With at least two to three strings of 40 batteries attached to the UPS units, these systems are responsible for delivering continuous uptime to critical systems across several different hospital buildings, including the IT department, the MRI room, and a pair of TERs.

Considering that a string of batteries is only as reliable as its weakest link, and because valve-regulated lead-acid batteries can fail quickly, the only way to ensure a UPS will support the load during an emergency is with daily battery monitoring. Fortunately, Eaton’s Cellwatch, an automated monitoring system for large-scale installations, does this for the hospital. With this technology, Children’s of Alabama can quickly identify and isolate battery issues long before a failure occurs.

Power monitoring capabilities allow Children’s of Alabama to view the current health of its UPS batteries. As a result, the IT staff has instant access to battery status with a simple view and clear indication of a good or bad cell or jar. The hospital can also monitor the status of generator, switchgear, and communications gear batteries in the same user interface with UPS batteries.

Having relied on this power monitoring system for the past five years, the hospital has been able to sidestep costly downtime due to unexpected battery failure, enhance overall system reliability, ensure business continuity, and safeguard company assets.

Measuring the Success

Thanks to the reliability afforded by UPSs and power monitoring technology, Children’s of Alabama doesn’t have to worry about power maladies. Instead, hospital personnel are free to focus on what they do best: helping ill and injured children to heal.

With its comprehensive power management solution in place, the hospital is able to:

  • Ensure continuous uptime and availability to all critical systems
  • Gain detailed battery status of health information on a daily basis
  • Mitigate and prevent costly downtime by assessing battery information at any given moment
  • Keep systems performing optimally with regular checkups provided via a service plan

What’s more, the Children’s of Alabama power management platform boosts its bottom line: slashing preventive maintenance costs while increasing safety, since battery life is extended by knowing exactly when replacement is needed. For the hospital, it’s been a win-win situation: Armed with its annual service plan, Children’s of Alabama has the assurance knowing the ongoing health of its UPSs is preserved.

Ed Spears is product-marketing manager at Ireland-based Eaton Corp. and Fred Blackmon is owner of the Blackmon Agency. For more information, contact 24×7 chief editor Keri Forsythe-Stephens at kstephens@medqor.com.