I recently had the opportunity to interview Tony Sarti, Healthcare Sales Manager for Kenall Manufacturing, for an article I wrote about healthcare facilities lighting for The Electrical Distributor (TED) Magazine. The interview was extremely informative, and I wanted to share it with you complete here.
DiLouie: How would you characterize healthcare facilities as a market for lighting? What types of facilities characterize this market?
Sarti: Healthcare facilities present quite a challenge for light fixture manufactures. Infection control, EMC & MRI compatibility, multifunctional lighting requirements and circadian rhythm are just some of the elements which must be considered when designing lighting products for the healthcare industry. Whether it is a hospital, medical office building or small clinic consideration of these environments should be evaluated when selecting lighting products.
DiLouie: What are the basic lighting requirements in a healthcare facility, and how do they distinguish this market from other applications?
Sarti: Infection control has been such an important topic for a long time and has gained a concentrated focus over the past few years. With over 2 million new cases of hospital acquired infections each year contributing to nearly 100,000 fatalities annually, special attention to combat this epidemic has been a priority.
Manufacturers of healthcare light fixtures sensitive to the infection control battle have addressed this concern in a few ways. Anti-microbial additives have been added to paint finishes to inhibit the growth of bacteria, mold and fungus on the surface of luminaires. This approach addresses the exposed painted surfaces of the luminaire; however, this is not effective on the lense portion of the fixture. To address the entire luminaire against the transmission of infectious disease, a fixture with a NSF2 rating should be selected. This NFS designation ensures that the design is compliant with ease of cleaning, smooth wipe down surfaces and finishes that adhere to strict hospital cleaning protocols.
A second line of defense with regards to infection control involves inhibiting the transmission of airborne pathogens. In most operating rooms airflow is drawn through a hepa-filtration device designed to prevent pathogen cross contamination to adjacent areas throughout the building. This device is designed to filter any biological pathogens that may be present within the surgical area. If a breach or leak exists in any area within the system, the negative pressure of the room would be compromised. If a luminaire has not been properly sealed from the surgical suite, airflow could then be diverted from the designed path to the hepa-filtration device and travel to the source of the leak.
If this gets in an improperly sealed luminaire the potential for bacteria or mold to colonize might exist. Heat from an energized luminaire might then aid in more rapid growth of this colonization. Once established, this bacteria or mold could find itself into the plenum through a hole, crack or seam within the fixture. Any pathogens present could then spread to adjacent areas within the building.
Surgical suite lighting recessed into the ceiling should, therefore, carry an IP65 rating along with welded housing to ensure the space within the luminaire is isolated from the space in both the surgical suite and plenum. Specifically, fixture doors should be fully gasketed between the surgical suite and light compartment to provide an IP65-certified dust as well as the water seal between the door and lens, doorframe and housing, and doorframe and ceiling.
Electromagnetic as well as magnetic compatibility within surgical suites and diagnostic rooms is essential for patient and staff safety. An improperly shielded luminaire might interfere with sensitive medical devices, which could be critical in diagnosing a problem or become a life safety concern. Military Standard 461F is the most recent certification adopted by the lighting industry with regards to noise limit control of electromagnetic interference for both radiated and conducted emissions.
The presence of ferrous material in a luminaire could affect imaging results or become a safety issue when used in an MRI application. Therefore, special attention must be given in the design of any fixture being used within an MRI suite.
Manufacturers of light fixtures must be conscious of healthcare facilities’ needs by providing lighting attentive to all such concerns. Selecting products that provide listings and certifications from accredited testing facilities is the best way for the specification community to ensure that luminaires are well suited to the challenges of their intended application. Without adherence to these standards, it would be not be possible to determine whether a luminaire manufacturer was producing products capable of achieving their desired result. Disregarding these design elements might cause interference with delicate electrical or magnetic imaging machinery, resulting compromised readings and/or test results. Fixtures bearing listings that support ease of cleaning and barriers to transmission are important safeguards to assure the right fixture for the right job.
DiLouie: What are the major recent trends in healthcare lighting, and how are they impacting lighting needs? (Not just energy and maintenance but color, visibility, controllability, etc.?)
Sarti: The most significant trend impacting all of lighting in recent years has been the adoption of LED lamp sources. Early adopters of LED products had to suffer through inconsistent color shifts, unreliable sources and products that were not designed to provide optimal performance. The results proved to be disappointing, with fixtures that produced inadequate light for their intended application, poor CRI, and premature driver and LED failures.
With the growth and advancement of LED technology, the concerns involving the performance and design of LED light fixtures has greatly diminished, provided a reputable manufacturer is making the luminaire. This newer technology allows manufacturers the flexibility of smart designs that utilize less space—particularly critical in healthcare environments—while producing light fixtures that yield optimal performance.
DiLouie: Are there any new markets that are developing in healthcare lighting? New opportunities for lighting that are being created by these trends?
Sarti: There is an increase in robotic surgical suite and hybrid operating room environments, often involving video-view technology. As a result, supporting the visual needs of the staff is becoming increasingly critical to successful patient outcomes. Essentially, surgical suite lighting must deliver consistent, effective light where and when it’s needed. For example, the use of either symmetric or symmetric/asymmetric reflectors in surgical suite luminaires, depending on the needs of a particular application, provides superior optical control within each of the surgical suite zones. Surgical teams must also be able to depend on the luminaires providing accurate color every time the step into the surgical field, so the color rendering index (CRI) of the light source also becomes critical to their success.
DiLouie: What opportunities are there for increasing user comfort from lighting via methods such as daylighting and patient color tuning and intensity control?
Sarti: Research suggests that natural light is the preferred light source, which means that lighting control systems that measure and adjust based on contributions support patient health while providing the facility owner with cost and energy savings. Graphic lightboxes with soothing images can also be utilized to reduce patient stress during a procedure or hospital stay.
DiLouie: What types of lighting are common in healthcare facilities, including any specialized lighting such as exam lights?
Sarti: There are many types of lighting common in healthcare facilities. Specialized lighting includes multi-function patient room lighting, LED troffers, step lights, downlights, headwell lights, task lights, exam lights, chart lights, healing lights and darkroom safelights. Non-specialized lighting includes vanity mirrors, wall sconces, downlights, stairwell lights, exit and emergency lights, reading lights, and parking structure and surface lot lights.
DiLouie: What are three unique aspects of this lighting market that electrical distributors need to become educated about to distinguish their expertise or otherwise take full advantage of selling opportunities?
Sarti: Be aware of the needs, requirements, and hot points that healthcare facilities must contend with that are exclusive to this industry. Infection control, and staff and patient safety is paramount in the planning and design of all healthcare facilities.
Know and understand the significance of listings and certifications, particularly their importance when discussing lighting for the healthcare industry.
Patient-centric focus has become the overarching goal of most hospitals over the past decade. Privatization of rooms, closer personal attention and greater control of their environment – all while providing an architectural, less clinical look – has become the driving force in today’s hospital design and planning.
DiLouie: What kinds of retrofit opportunities are available that offer good selling opportunities to electrical distributors? What should they look for in an existing building?
Sarti: Exit signs and night lights that run 24/7 can yield anywhere from 25-75 percent savings depending on the lamp source being retrofit to LED. There are several options when retrofitting these types of fixtures. Many installations are easy and, in most cases, will fit into the same footprint of the replaced unit.
DiLouie: How should electrical distributors engage their customers on healthcare facility lighting projects? Where can they add value and distinguish themselves from the competition?
Sarti: They should seek to understand the needs of their customer by engaging in open dialogue with all involved parties. The healthcare staff, maintenance crew, administrative departments may all have different needs and requests for what they want when lighting their facilities. They should understand these needs and respond to them in a positive way, by sharing this information and making these opinions heard along the entire supply chain. Taking the time to listen to the voice of the customer and meeting their lighting challenges is powerful and will ultimately set you apart from others.
DiLouie: If you could tell all electrical distributors just one thing about today’s healthcare lighting market, what would it be?
Sarti: Make sure the lighting fixtures you specify are sealed and carry certified listings that support effective infection control, which is so critical in today’s healthcare environments.