10 Apr How The Recent Epidemic Will Effect Healthcare Design
The recent strain on healthcare providers and the healthcare environment will place a higher degree of emphasis on adaptability, efficiency and infection control throughout the design process. One of the of the key components we as design and engineering professionals focus on in healthcare is of course minimizing the spread of disease and airborne pathogens. Now more than ever, being able to quickly sanitize rooms during and after patient stays with a burdened staff is paramount. As this relates to the design of healthcare environments we focus on adapting for future requirements through several factors:
- Furnishing materials that can be cleaned with strong disinfectants. Chairs should have no welting (piping) where germs could collect around edges and make sanitization less effective.
- Furniture should be flexible and allow for quick change. With increased patient demand multiple layouts within a room need to be considered and easily altered. “Social Seating” should be easily implemented as patient flow requires distancing guidelines.
- Reduce the use of wood. Wood is porous and can collect and harbor germs, being more difficult to sanitize. There are many PVC and vinyl products on the market now that emulate the look and feel of wood that can also be easily sanitized. We can eliminate certain materials while still maintaining a warm and inviting atmosphere. We must not forget that a proven part of the healing process is psychological, and patients that are in environments that are natural, more relaxing and comfortable reduce patient stress and anxiety which ultimately aids in healing.
- The ventilation system is a key system in healthcare environments. Air changes in a room and how and where that air is exchanged reduces airborne pathogens. Room pressures are also extremely important in containing the spread of disease. In addition it should be considered how each room environment can be altered. Can an area be mechanically separated from others, as rooms are being converted for different needs and patient uses. Ultra violet-C lighting can also be added to help disinfect airflow. These ultra violet lights can be portable units or installed directly into the HVAC systems.
- As staff resources are taxed the layout of a healthcare environment needs to be efficient. How a provider moves throughout a space and the efficiency of this movement in serving multiple patients at once needs to be considered. Flexible, decentralized workstations will become even more important.
- When designing healthcare projects a key consideration should be how the space can be quickly adapted, modified or retrofitted. The recent crisis has shown that we cannot forecast or masterplan for all unexpected events however we can mitigate the result with spaces that can quickly be modified.
- Technology and IT will play a major part in design and healthcare delivery. We should incorporate space and resources for doctors to administer virtual healthcare wherever necessary. Tele-health or tele-medicine also play into the overall efficiency of the delivery model as well as mitigating a large influx of patients at the hospital site.
In summary, emergency response, adaptable environments, efficient workflow and minimizing the spread of infection will lead the healthcare design discussion going forward. As we assist our clients through these trying times in healthcare we are all learning through trial by fire and will adapt current requirements to future design metrics.