Elevator Monitoring and Communications Ensures Patient Safety

Hospitals face a multitude of concerns with respect to general building efficiency and safety, protecting assets, safeguarding against potential acts of terrorism, and protecting patients and staff.

One of the many tasks a hospital’s facilities department is responsible for is monitoring elevators for efficient and safe transportation of visitors, patients and staff. Inefficiencies in the vertical transportation systems can cost time and possibly even lives.

In the past, hospitals have relied on analog emergency telephones or other intercom-type systems to reveal when an elevator is not working properly, when the riding public encounter a problem or when people become trapped. Having emergency telephones as the normal means of fault detection virtually ensures that the riding public becomes the main feedback loop for reporting when a failure occurs.

Without some form of automated monitoring system to ensure the elevators are working properly, hospital maintenance staff must periodically ride each elevator to assess proper operation. Without modern digital communications systems, the staff must physically make the rounds, initiating test calls on each analog phone.

Deficiencies in this scenario are numerous and include poor allocation of staff time, frequent physical testing requirements and intermittent failures, which lead to poor customer service.

A Preemptive Solution
Many modern hospitals and other large campus institutions are turning to modern vertical transportation management systems to ensure elevators are working safely and effectively.

The integrated technology uses computerized diagnostics, network IP communications, digital data management and work-order generation -- all automated and operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

  • Before implementing an VTMS, consider the following:
  • Hospital buildings often include many vintages and manufacturers of elevator systems. To be useful, the VTMS must work with, and support, a wide variety of elevator systems.
  • Status and fault information must be collected and displayed in real time on multiple workstations (security office, engineering, management, etc.). In addition, fault information should send alerts to PDAs and/or e-mail and SMS for rapid response.
  • The VTMS should operate on standard platforms. Ideally, it will be open-system compliant and include functionality to interact with other building management systems, such as security access controls and energy management.
  • Network IP technology is used for data communication to capitalize on installed infrastructure and IT department support and maintenance personnel.
  • IP-based communication allows VoIP to become part of the integrated solution, adding flexibility to accommodate video surveillance, card access and other security applications.
  • The system’s hardware and software should be standards- based wherever practical to allow for future expansion with off-the-shelf components from a wide variety of sources.
  • The system should be self-diagnostic, fault tolerant, and capable of both on-site and remote monitoring and reporting.

The Lift-Net™ VTMS, manufactured by Integrated Display Systems, is interoperable across differing elevator systems and uses negotiated serial links with the various equipment manufacturers to collect and store real-time data from elevator systems. The system graphically displays elevator fault and status information, stores historical data and can generate notifications on-screen or via pagers and e-mail -- heading off problems before they become a major issue. Workstations can be located anywhere there is network connectivity.

VTMS solutions are often integrated with a voice communication option using VoIP, which requires the installation of an analog telephone adapter and A17.1-compliant microprocessor-based speaker in the elevator cab, with associated electronics in the elevator machine room. Using an ATA with enhanced security features converts the elevator phones from analog to digital signals. The Lift-Net solution uses Grandstream Networks’ standards-based, open-source family of ATAs and desktop IP phones, allowing customers to preserve their investment in existing elevator phones while taking advantage of the benefits of integrated VoIP. Two-way audio communications within the elevator cab can be recorded as standard .wav files for playback on any computerized sound device.

Using VoIP for Better Efficiency
Migrating to IP voice and video technology delivers bandwidth efficiency and increased network reliability, which provides hospital staff with instant knowledge of the health status of each elevator communications device.

When using VoIP, the network complexity inherent in PSTN connections is eliminated, yielding an integrated and flexible infrastructure that can actually support many types of communication simultaneously, such as voice, fax, video surveillance and multimedia applications. Hospitals and other businesses embrace the technology for its inherent flexibility to easily add new security applications as needs dictate. By using open IP protocol standards, hospitals can acquire a cohesive solution that requires less equipment management, enables remote monitoring and is more fault-tolerant.

What’s Next?
One of the biggest issues that hospitals and other businesses grapple with prior to transitioning their network infrastructure to a newer technology is not that they do not understand the “why” to migrate. The issue is often “how” to cost-effectively transition to network-centric systems with the least disruption, while maximizing their existing capital investment.

With the increasing availability of IP infrastructure, coupled with the desire to capitalize on the infrastructure investment, it is becoming much easier to justify the installation of sophisticated integrated building management systems.

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