BICSI’s healthcare subcommittee’s new document will offer increased detail on systems used in healthcare environments. Notably, it will showcase additional industry issues low-voltage contractors need to consider.

Electrical contractors targeting hospital, clinic, laboratory and other healthcare environments will want to check out the new standard due out from BICSI this summer. Planned as a sister document to the Telecommunication Industry Association’s TIA-1179 Healthcare Facility Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard, it is designed to give contractors a “basic, high-level knowledge of the systems, some of their design considerations, and some of the construction considerations these contractors may run into when they enter into healthcare projects and renovation projects,” said Todd W. Taylor, chairman of the BICSI Standards Committee and Healthcare Subcommittee and healthcare principal at design firm RTKL.

As part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, coupled with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, some healthcare construction, renovation and expansion projects have received funding to boost technology infrastructure and enable advanced initiatives such as electronic health records. Those projects, in turn, have generated increased contractor interest in the healthcare industry and more involvement (along with more complex expectations) from hospital administrators and staff members.

What to look for in the new standard
To many of today’s technology-savvy owners, meaningful healthcare experience among contractors goes beyond pulling cable.

“It’s not just about cabling when you get into a hospital,” Taylor said. “The owners expect you to know a little bit more than that. With this manual, we’re hoping to give contractors a designer’s or consultant’s view,” a perspective he said will help contractors interpret what the term “healthcare experience” means in today’s environment.

Taylor said the nuts and bolts of infrastructure cabling is left to existing TIA and BICSI documents, with the new healthcare standard layering additional information on top of what is already available.
“We have a section that talks about infrastructure and pathways,” he said, “but it doesn’t talk necessarily about the cabling infrastructure.” Instead, he said, the new standard includes the need for larger telecommunication rooms to allow for the range of additional systems being used, the importance of redundancy, the different methods of redundancy, and the distribution of the backbone infrastructure in a hospital or healthcare facility. Infection control is another important issue covered by the standard, and it may be new territory for contractors.

New construction is not necessarily the focus of the new standard.

“When you’re dealing with a renovation project within a hospital, there are a lot more things that have to be taken into consideration,” Taylor said.

On the list of things contractors need to know when working in healthcare are new practices for air filtration, closing off areas during construction, gowning procedures, and using everything from safety tents to dust control masks. The new standard covers all of it.

The new standard is not expected to be out until sometime this summer, but Taylor said contractors can tap a range of existing resources to increase their understanding of the healthcare industry’s needs and requirements and be ready to leverage BICSI’s new standard once it’s available.

“The latest release of the Telecommunications Distribution Methods Manual actually has a healthcare chapter in there,” Taylor said.

He suggested contractors become familiar with it because it contains important industry-specific data and served as a building block for the new standard.

Other resources, such as the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and the Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel, offer low-voltage contractors an overview of systems used within the healthcare industry—nurse call, infant protection, monitoring, etc.—along with additional details on some of those systems’ requirements.

“One thing contractors are probably not used to is working in an integrated operating room environment,” Taylor said, “and [knowing] how all these systems have to tie together, along with the environment that fosters and the challenges it brings.”

BICSI’s new healthcare standards should give contractors more in-depth knowledge of healthcare organizations’ needs and industry best practices, which low-voltage specialists can use to provide the expertise necessary to implement new technology initiatives and bring older facilities up to date.


KNUDSON worked in facilities and telecom management before becoming a freelance business writer. She can be reached at www.julieknudson.com.