In a high-stress healthcare environment, the last thing clinicians need to worry about is a power outage. After all, an outage can have devastating consequences on patient care. Below, Jim Folk, Director—Health Care Solutions, at Chicago-based Tripp Lite, discusses why healthcare facilities should prioritize power management and how the pandemic has impacted the power protection technologies sector.

24×7 Magazine: What are some key steps hospitals and other healthcare institutions should take to avoid power outages? 

Jim Folk: Tripp Lite recognizes two types of power outages that affect healthcare facilities. The first is incoming power grid failures or power anomalies, which leave the entire facility dependent on backup or standby power sources. The second is power interruptions caused by human interaction during transport of patients to another area of the facility for treatment or therapy. Power grid failures require large-scale megawatt solutions to be in place to assure the continuation of care, and outages during transport require a much smaller portable power solution.

Jim Folk

In either case, key actions need to include planning and preparedness for the inevitable time when utility power is interrupted. Even with generators, which can begin running within 15 seconds, a facility’s power system design needs to include uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems to carry the load during the transition to generator power. Online UPS systems provide immediate battery backup to ensure data is preserved and care continues without disruption.

24×7: What are some of the top innovations in medical power protection technologies?

Folk: Smaller UPS systems with higher power densities for computer servers, networks, and associated equipment, along with power distribution units, or PDUs, and racks, have enabled healthcare facilities to keep up with new electronic medical record systems and advances in diagnostic technologies like imaging and robotic surgery.

The adoption of lithium iron phosphate batteries (and other highly reliable lithium chemistries) has greatly reduced the weight of portable power systems and extended the life of the battery packs from months to years. In fact, some battery packs now include a five-year warranty.

24×7: In what ways has COVID-19 impacted hospital-based power protection technologies?

Folk: The need for respiratory therapy has exceeded all forecasts. And the ability to provide respiratory therapy while having the patient transported is critical. Portable power systems make this possible. The therapy keeps the patient alive and allows the transport with minimal risk of infection-spread.

24×7: From a healthcare perspective, how has the power protection technologies market evolved in recent years and how do you expect it to change even more in the future? 

Folk: The underlying technologies have advanced considerably to allow faster care at a lower cost. The cost of many of the technologies continues to decline as use increases. The advent of micro data centers, which both process and store data close to the source, has made the task of accommodating growth much simpler.

24×7: What else do you want 24×7 Magazine readers to know about power protection technologies? 

Folk: Power protection can be as narrow, or as wide, as you wish to define it. One might argue that it should include the network cable in a patient room and the requirement for that cable to have the IEC/UL 60601-1 approvals for use in the patient care area. Power protection can also be defined as the megawatt-sized generators that power an entire medical campus in the event of a power failure. Supplying safe, reliable power to healthcare facilities is a complex, but critical, topic.