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Building a Health Care Facility? Ignore AV at Your Peril

It’s still anyone’s guess whether a byproduct of the Affordable Care Act will be more or less funding for AV systems in hospitals and other health care facilities. One thing is clear: the business of life must go on, including using AV to improve care and save money.

A new standard from Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI) aims to facilitate health care AV projects. Information Technology Systems Design and Implementation Best Practices for Healthcare Institutions and Facilities covers systems such as nurse/code call, patient monitoring and interactive TV, as well as the wired and wireless options for connecting those systems.

Also known as ANSI/BICSI 004-2012, the standard covers radio frequency identification (RFID), a short-range technology that hospitals increasingly use for tracking patients, equipment and drugs. In theory, that adoption should create lots of opportunities for AV, such as having a room’s control system read a patient’s RFID tag and automatically configure the HVAC, shades or TV. For example, it’s a waste of money to run the HVAC at normal levels if that patient isn’t in the room for an extended period, such as during a couple hours’ therapy.

In practice, however, such integration often doesn���t occur. That’s because health care has silos that frequently limit interaction between, say, AV and building management systems. So do most other verticals, of course, but some people argue that siloing is an even bigger hurdle in health care because of the preference for evidence-based design. As one architect lamented: “Hospitals must be willing to share with the design and planning professionals their performance data. It may sound like airing out dirty linen, but the team is on your side, and we cannot help you if we are kept in the dark.”

Ideally that sharing comes early on in the project. An AV integrator or acoustician can’t recommend products and designs that help meet goals such as LEED noise reduction or HIPAA compliance if they’re not in the room. Hearing those recommendations months or a year into a project runs the risk of great ideas being more expensive than they need to be because now they require change orders. With health care providers already under enormous pressure to minimize costs, that’s the last thing they can afford.

Since 1998, Tim Kridel has covered the tech and telecom industries for a variety of publications and websites, including AV Technology, Carrier Ethernet News, Digital Innovation Gazette, Pro AV, and InAVate. His coverage includes carrier ethernet, mobile apps, speech recognition, digital signage, FTTx, videoconferencing, Wi-Fi, and cellular. He can be reached at