Empowering patient safety and hospital accreditation through reliable measurement data

monitoring and  measurement in medical and critical environments
Industrial Measurements
Life Science

How one of the largest health care providers in the U.S. leverages Vaisala humidity and temperature instruments to meet strict accreditation standards for safe operating room and laboratory environments

One of the most significant U.S. health care systems is harnessing the power of measurement technology to help patients feel whole and deliver compassionate, world-class care. A key element of that commitment is enhancing care quality and patient safety through a more efficient outcomes-based accreditation program. DNV GL's pioneering NIAHO® program integrates ISO 9001 with the Medicare Conditions of Participation to restore efficiency and value to hospital accreditation. 

The challenge: Difficulty calibrating transmitters in critical spaces to ensure compliance

As the health care industry — as well as the rest of the world — continues its adoption of digital technologies, those innovations are increasingly deployed in new ways to help improve care outcomes. The Building Efficiency and Controls Group at a U.S.-based health care provider began its digital transformation in 2015, and that journey continues today as that team oversees about 12 million square feet of building space across eight hospitals in its region.

The problem for the group was twofold: First, it was receiving inconsistent data due to variations in measurement instruments. Leveraging equipment from many sensor vendors, including Vaisala, the team struggled with consistent measurements, device standardization and large-scale humidity drift. Second, the third-party service the team was using to calibrate the humidity and temperature transmitters in its critical spaces (i.e., anesthesia, radiology and operating rooms, laboratories, and pharmacies) was having difficulty calibrating units.

Calibration is important to ensure the health care system meets the requirements to achieve and maintain hospital accreditation that validates Medicare compliance. The first and only accreditation program to integrate the CMS Conditions of Participation with the ISO 9001 Quality Management Program, the DNV GL NIAHO accreditation program directly addresses content management system (CMS) requirements. 

Any U.S. hospital that accepts Medicare and/or Medicaid  must comply with federal health and safety standards, but providing the best possible patient care can be difficult when care providers are already overburdened by accreditation and certification processes. Complicating the issue, our client was still facing compliance-related issues due to the variety of installed sensors and lacking confidence in the accuracy of the measurements. Consequently, its Building Efficiency and Controls Group was forced to make repeat service calls and required multiple visits to adjust the humidity issues, understand how to service the various sensors and replace the sensors for which calibration was not available.

The solution: Digital system to capture, document and report data to meet accreditation standards

Since our client’s team is audited yearly regarding data points for critical spaces, its humidity and temperature instruments must be tested and calibrated on an ongoing basis. To overcome the issues our client experienced surrounding critical space testing and instrument calibration, as well as consistent measurements, device standardization and large-scale humidity drift, the group made Vaisala’s Humidity and Temperature Transmitter Series HMW90 and Handheld Humidity and Temperature Meter HM70 its standardized products in 2017 and brought calibration in-house in 2019.

Through a Calibration Care Agreement, the group sends the handheld meters back to Vaisala for annual calibration to ensure reliable, accurate measurements. The most economical and convenient way to maintain the accuracy of Vaisala instruments over their lifespans, such agreements provide several benefits:

•    Lower calibration costs for multiple years.
•    Flexibility to add calibrations with agreed terms within the agreement period.
•    Faster delivery time with priority processing and a convenient return process managed via the Vaisala Online Store.
•    Vaisala MyLearning license for access to online training and regular Q&A sessions with experts.

Vaisala’s Calibration Care Agreements can be customized according to unique needs and are available for all Vaisala instruments with a calibration offering. 

To evaluate the Vaisala solutions, our client installed data logs and provides a director’s report monthly with a focus on compliance and accuracy. The HMW90 measures relative humidity and temperature in indoor environments, where high accuracy, stability and reliable operation are required. Designed for demanding humidity measurement in spot-checking applications, the HM70 is ideal for field checking and calibration of Vaisala's fixed humidity instruments. Leveraging the HMW90 and HM70, our client added the design standard specification for critical spaces to all dependable data logs.

Ensuring critical health care spaces meet certain standards for humidity, temperature and other important parameters is vital to improving patient safety, care quality and health care delivery. Whether for effective equipment operations, patient and staff safety and comfort, to prevent microbial growth, safe vaccine/medication storage, or to meet different standards and guidelines for anesthetization, measuring relative humidity and temperature is important in the critical spaces where complicated procedures are performed and where the environmental conditions surrounding patients and staff are essential.

“We can plug into the wall-mounted device, calibrate it on the fly with the handheld meter, and it keeps us compliant,” said one of the specialists on our client’s team. “We don’t see big dips in humidity, and the failure rate is very low with these devices … it’s a very reliable sensor — and we don’t get that with other out-of-the-box solutions.”

Integrated with sensors that meet specification, deliver high performance over time, and are accurate and reliable from installation to scheduled maintenance, the company’s digital quality management system calculates highs and lows over time, automatically creates work orders in the event of high/low alerts and empowers the Building Efficiency and Controls Group to learn about and fix problems, thereby meeting accreditation requirements and maintaining hospital accreditation.

The benefits: Consistent, accurate and reliable measurement data to meet accreditation standards and ensure safe operating rooms, laboratories, and pharmacy environments

Leveraging 85 years of experience in humidity sensor technology, Vaisala builds products that provide reliable measurement data, which is essential for meeting accreditation standards and ensuring safe operating environments in critical spaces. The primary benefits of utilizing Vaisala’s humidity and temperature instruments to meet DNV GL’s strict hospital accreditation standards are the accuracy and reliability of the sensors and the enhanced energy savings unlocked when used with temperature reset.

“The provider made Vaisala a standard because of the accuracy and reliability of Vaisala solutions compared to other out-of-the-box options,” said the team’s director of control systems and energy management. “When we receive a new sensor, Vaisala has calibrated it and provided certified documentation that we can use toward compliance each year. With the ability to be more accurate in our record-keeping, we can ensure the data we are presenting for compliance is correct because there’s no question whether the sensor is working.”

As a result of implementing the Vaisala measurement solutions, our client not only experienced reliability in data presented for compliance but was also able to use the instruments to conduct an air-handling unit temperature reset and realize significant energy savings. In fact, the first hospital in the region that the group focused on regarding energy management is now the only Energy Star-certified hospital in the state. In the US, a building must meet strict energy use standards set by the EPA to be eligible for ENERGY STAR certification.  But additional benefits of this implementation include cost savings, whether via reduced manpower to manually check humidity because the system is electronic or by way of reduced third-party vendor costs as calibration has been conducted in-house since 2019. 

With our client and other forward-thinking organizations across the health care space continuing digital transformation efforts, Vaisala instruments will remain crucial as health care systems expand their digital footprints and install sensors in noncompliant critical spaces. Equipped with consistent, accurate and reliable measurement data, organizations across the health care sector can continue to improve the health, prosperity and well-being of the communities they serve by consistently upholding the highest standards to deliver exceptional health care.