Preparing Hospitals for the Future of Connectivity

Francois Durand, Product Application Engineer, Network Connectivity

Long gone are the days where you’ll find a nurse at the end of your hospital bed noisily flipping through a chart or tapping a pen on a clipboard. Today’s nurses are much more likely to track patients and their progress by scrolling through screens on a tablet or mobile device.

We live in a world of Uber, Amazon and Airbnb and as a result, patients, staff and visitors all now expect immediate access to information during their hospital visits. With the dramatic increase in digital health records, digital imaging, and hospitals now becoming more accepting of telemedicine, reliable and high-capacity network connectivity is essential to meet demands of various stakeholders in the new digital hospital. Without it, staff productivity slows, care is delayed, visitors become annoyed and patients feel ignored.

We live in a world of Uber, Amazon and Airbnb and as a result, patients, staff and visitors all now expect immediate access to information during their hospital visits. With the dramatic increase in digital health records, digital imaging, and hospitals now becoming more accepting of telemedicine, reliable and high-capacity network connectivity is essential to meet demands of various stakeholders in the new digital hospital. Without it, staff productivity slows, care is delayed, visitors become annoyed and patients feel ignored.

As hospitals’ reliance on internet technologies expands, so does the need for better and faster network connectivity solutions. Not only do patients and guests expect to log into Facebook and Netflix during their hospital stay, but doctors and nurses are now almost fully reliant on the internet to access health records, input data into pharmacy systems, obtain digital images from radiology, and communicate with other health professionals. This means that healthcare facilities need to take a close look at their network capabilities to make sure they’re able to accommodate new digital technologies and meet rising patient and staff expectations.

As hospitals’ reliance on internet technologies expands, so does the need for better and faster network connectivity solutions. Not only do patients and guests expect to log into Facebook and Netflix during their hospital stay, but doctors and nurses are now almost fully reliant on the internet to access health records, input data into pharmacy systems, obtain digital images from radiology, and communicate with other health professionals. This means that healthcare facilities need to take a close look at their network capabilities to make sure they’re able to accommodate new digital technologies and meet rising patient and staff expectations.

These new technologies and applications inevitably lead to more data – data that needs to be stored, processed, and transmitted through a strong, reliable network. In fact, experts predict that in North America alone, healthcare data will reach 35 zettabytes by 2020, a 44-fold increase from 2009. With 2020 only four years away, health facilities need to act now. And a key strategy will be developing a network infrastructure and future-ready cabling that can support the deluge of data to come.

Hospital Connectivity Schneider Electric

So what exactly does that look like? Let’s start with the basics. A hospital’s network infrastructure is its web of interconnected computer and information technology (IT) systems. The network enables communication between clinicians and patients, across departments, as well as across larger health information networks. Though hospitals have been trying to adopt new technologies, they don’t always have the infrastructure in place to support these upgrades. Hospitals that improve their network infrastructure can expect better operational efficiency, patient safety, and patient satisfaction.

Today, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) recommends that at a minimum, healthcare facilities adopt category 6 cables, which can transmit up to one gigabit per second. But this speed isn’t enough to meet hospitals’ heavy reliance on internet-based technologies. This insufficiency is dangerous to the hospital’s reputation, but more importantly can be potentially dangerous to patients’ well-being. Baseline networks can create a lag that leads to a gap in staff communication, which can lead to delays in treatment. In a critical situation, this could have catastrophic consequences.

Slow connectivity also comes with substantial business risks. An inability to communicate can frustrate staff, leading to low employee satisfaction, high turnover and decreased efficiency among employees. Upgrading to higher network capabilities is essential for hospitals to meet modern standards of patient care – and benefits bottom-line business results.

In our next two blogs, we’ll discuss some specific recommendations for upgrading network connectivity and provide guidance on how hospitals should prepare. For a more in-depth look at the future of connectivity in hospitals, check out our white paper. Or, for more information, contact Francois Durand.

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Data, Development, and Documentation: Best Practices #3 and #4 for Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Retrofit

Written by Guest Blogger, Richard Parapar

In our last blog, we provided an introduction to the first two of eight best practices for effectively retrofitting manufacturing systems in a pharmaceutical production facility. In this one, we’ll explore the next two best practices and how they’ve been used effectively in our Genentech case study.

#3: Explore automated migration tools to transfer data between systems.

Retrofitting legacy systems can be challenging due to the amount of configuration information that exists in the old system and will need to be re-entered into the new system. Fortunately, there is a wealth of software tools available that are specifically designed to move configuration and systems data from one platform to another, and often the major software applications will already have similar capabilities built in, such as XML export/import functions. Utilizing existing data transfer tools, and exploring opportunities to fill in gaps with customized tools, can help maintain data integrity between legacy and new systems and smooth the retrofit process.

The benefits of this practice are clear, and numerous. Automated transfer of data eliminates the potential for transcription errors or omissions, reducing online testing requirements and overall system downtime. It also makes transferred data more secure and safeguards intellectual property such as recipe procedures, product structures, and other information essential for manufacturing. Testing a software migration tool is typically less expensive and less time-consuming than verifying manually-entered data. And an automated migration can be performed multiple times, so system managers can build confidence that the critical data has been migrated reliably and correctly.

Genentech successfully applied this practice during their retrofit, creating a database migration tool to transfer all the relevant configuration information from the legacy software application to the new application, which made the data transfer both more reliable and efficient, as creating and testing the software tool took significantly less time than it would have to manually re-enter the data.

#4: Plan to synchronize parallel system development and documentation systems.

When a retrofit occurs, one of the biggest challenges facing system managers is the need to maintain the legacy system, and keep it operating at fullest capacity, while simultaneously dealing with development of the new system. The existing system will still require regular updates to ensure reliable functionality and maintain compliance with regulatory and safety requirements. System managers, then, should have a working plan to manage development of both systems concurrently, at least until after the transition is complete.

Managing parallel development and documentation streams

Managing parallel development and documentation streams

The major benefit of having such a plan is that it provides the business with flexibility, so it can continue adapting to changing user requirements, compliance regulations, and market conditions. In short, it keeps the business operable and responsive even while upgrades are being developed.

In Genentech’s case, because the retrofit process was expected to take two to three years, it was unfeasible for modifications and updates to existing systems to be completely suspended. The team executing the retrofit employed multiple synchronized “development cycles” to ensure ongoing changes to user requirements and system functionality were implemented in both old and new systems.

Be sure to check out the full blog series!

  • How to Know when to Upgrade Your Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Systems
  • Genentech: How One Company Made Retrofitting Work
  • Getting Started: Best Practices 1 and 2 for a Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Upgrade Project

To read more about how to execute these best practices in your facility, download and read our white paper here!

Have you seen either of these best practices successfully used? Would you consider adopting them for your own facility? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Richard Parapar has over 30 years experience delivering advanced automation solutions for the life sciences, petrochemical refining, high purity gas production, and consumer food processing industries. Richard recently retired after over 21 years at Genentech/Roche as a Senior Principal Engineer and Technical Lead for Automation Engineering, where he was responsible for delivery of major strategic automation projects and shaping the long term direction of manufacturing execution and process automation systems for Genentech.

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Healthcare Microgrids Evolve from Backup to Part of the Energy Value Chain

microgrids healthcare schneider electric

Hospitals are often pillars of the communities they serve. And, while the welfare of patients, safety of staff and comfort of visitors remain top priorities, today, leadership extends beyond healthcare to environmental sustainability. The evolution in microgrid technology is making it possible to produce reliable, critical power, more efficiently and for less money.

A microgrid manages distributed energy assets on a campus to optimize usage; joining traditional generators, renewable energy sources, energy storage and load. These local interconnected energy systems have evolved from mainly being used for backup to becoming an interactive component of the energy value chain.

Traditionally, backup power systems were passive assets. They operated in standby mode until a power incident occurred, so the site would still experience an outage. Next generation microgrids operate in concert with the larger grid. They actively predict the possibility of interruption via weather and power quality analytics to proactively isolate the microgrid and provide seamless, uninterrupted power to the facility. Furthermore, they can generate incremental revenue streams by actively providing key services to the grid without undermining the core resiliency requirement.

Sustainability Drivers

What’s driving the microgrid evolution? The proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) and ubiquity of communication technologies along with embedded technology, means the cost of connecting and automating distributed energy resources s has come down.

Plus, regulatory policy and subsidies are empowering those who want to become a more active part of the energy value chain and use sustainable energy. In turn, end users can leverage financial vehicles such as purchase power agreements to achieve their reliability, sustainability and cost benefits without any capital outlay.

Implementing a microgrid starts with mapping out your energy objectives and asking questions like: “Is my energy reliable enough to support my healthcare operation? Are we properly leading in sustainability?” “How exposed are we to increases in the cost of traditional fuels?” “How can alternative energy sources improve our long-term bottom line?” “How will my facility perform during extreme weather events?”

Once you have the answers, you’ll be closer to defining your hospital’s energy vision for the future through leveraging microgrids. Next steps, would be a high-level study to connect business objectives to technological solutions and then a detailed audit to define the specific approach and business model.

Microgrids are about co-optimizing your core mission and energy usage — keeping people comfortable and providing a safe environment; while lowering operational costs and increasing sustainability.

Learn more about our microgrid solutions. See microgrids in action by in these case studies.

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Genentech: How One Company Made Retrofitting Work

Written by Guest Blogger, Richard Parapar

Genentech is a pharmaceutical company best known for their groundbreaking cancer treatments. Their CCP1 facility— that is, their first large-scale cell culture production facility— is located in Vacaville, California. Construction began in 1995, and was first licensed to produce the breast cancer drug Herceptin in 2000. It’s also licensed to produce several other life-extending, innovative drugs, including the most prominently used to battle many different forms of cancer, Avastin. The facility remains an important, and high-producing, manufacturing site for oncology drugs.

Genentech Retrofitting Schneider Electric
But by 2007, the facility’s central control system was reaching a point where it was reaching end of life, and the components comprising the system were becoming harder and harder to come by, after the vendors providing those parts had declared them obsolete. The facility was Genentech’s first fully integrated manufacturing environment, and all essential processes were conducted through a central Distribution Control System (DCS)— direct operator interaction with the manufacturing process was fairly limited.

The company determined that a retrofit was necessary to ensure that their facility could continue to meet high demand, increase its efficiency, and take advantage of the forward march of pharmaceutical manufacturing technology.

Genentech had five major objectives when they began their DCS retrofitting project:

  1. Eliminating failure modes that could impact multiple batches of product, or result in significant plant downtime and decrease overall production
  2. Extending support for technological components that didn’t require an immediate replacement, through stockpiling spare parts to allow for as-needed repairs until a full system upgrade was possible
  3. Ensuring that full-scale production could resume in a timely fashion
  4. Minimizing expenses, both during the retrofit itself and throughout the facility’s lifetime
  5. Maintaining production capacity throughout the process, to avoid having a negative impact on the global supply chain

The project was, in the end, a resounding success for Genentech. They finished the retrofit in August of 2013, having met all of their goals, both technical and business. They resumed full production after the planned amount of downtime— which was also used for regular, periodic utilities maintenance. And as a result of the retrofit, the facility has decreased unplanned down time by 95%, thanks to improvements in the Distribution Control System’s overall performance and reliability.

In this blog series, we’re going to take a look at how to know when to upgrade pharmaceutical manufacturing systems and how Genentech conducted their successful retrofit. We will specifically look at the eight best practices that they used to strategically carry out the upgrades, and match their outcomes with their goals. We’ll follow Genentech’s experience throughout, using their successful retrofit strategy as a case study to illustrate why and how those best practices can make retrofitting a realistic and reasonable option for many manufacturing facilities— and why you should consider incorporating them in your plan of action, if you’re facing a retrofit project in your own facility.

To read more about Genentech, these best practices, and the retrofit process, download the white paper.

Have you, or someone you love, been helped by any of Genentech’s drugs? Have you heard of the company? Tell us about it in the comments!

Richard Parapar has over 30 years experience delivering advanced automation solutions for the life sciences, petrochemical refining, high purity gas production, and consumer food processing industries. Richard recently retired after over 21 years at Genentech/Roche as a Senior Principal Engineer and Technical Lead for Automation Engineering, where he was responsible for delivery of major strategic automation projects and shaping the long term direction of manufacturing execution and process automation systems for Genentech.

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