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The importance of monitoring MR chillers in unprecedented times

by John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent | September 13, 2021
MRI
A Filtrine service agent working on a system
From the September 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

A recent article in the Journal of the American College of Radiology urged radiologists to consider what steps they could take to lessen the impact of medical imaging on climate change, cautioning against business as usual. The authors noted that the consequences of climate warming “are disproportionately felt by children, the elderly, those with preexisting conditions and outdoor workers.”

Technical experts working behind the scenes to ensure MR units, and the chillers they run on, remain operational also give thought to this emerging issue.

“HVAC work will continue to be important as global temperatures rise,” said Jason Oliver, service manage for Advanced Cooling Technologies Inc. “One challenge that we have already experienced this year is the wide impact of recent heat waves. These really test all industry technician resources as we get swamped with customer calls.”

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He reports that the manufacturer they work with has already raised the operating design temperature range of their newer equipment and added redundant systems within the chiller to provide better performance and reliability in warmer climates.

Under standard service contracts, most MR service providers aren't going to cover chillers and "environmentals,” according to Sean Mykleby, a thermomagnetic and cryogen expert with SouthWest Medical Resources, who agrees that warming trends affect chiller operations. For that reason, he believes proactive real-time, remote monitoring and preventative maintenance are more critical than ever.

“Running sites during warmer weather conditions will always be a detriment to the efficacy of chillers and cooling systems,” said Mykleby. “Looking at the sensor deployments we have on our systems, we can see abnormal cycling on the cooling systems.”

These monitoring capabilities help prevent expensive repairs and downtime for their clients.

However, Mykleby said that he and his team performed more recovery cooldowns during the pandemic than they did in the prior three years. Because many sites went dormant during the unprecedented pandemic and hospitals were focused entirely on saving critically ill patients, many outpatient imaging schedules were curtailed. Often this meant that imaging sites were also unstaffed. Yet power, chiller, and compressor support must still operate regardless of whether or not scanning is conducted. This is a serious problem if remote monitoring is not in place.

“In some cases, staff came back after a 60-to-90-day hiatus, and their MR magnets were completely warm,” he said. “To get it operational again costs about $135,000 and ten to 12 days of downtime.”

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