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The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way hospitals and healthcare facilities approach infection control and prevention. Because the virus is highly contagious and airborne, new strategies and processes have become necessary to reduce transmission. A recent article in the Journal of Environmental Health Science and Engineering examined the ways hospital architectural design could help improve disease transmission in the future. The findings indicate the importance of forward-thinking design strategies in curbing the spread of viruses like SARS-CoV-2.

It is estimated that one in 31 hospital patients have a healthcare-acquired-infection (HAI) at any given time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means that healthcare facilities can become a breeding ground for disease transmission if appropriate action is not taken. Every hospital across the country has an infection prevention protocol, but many were nonetheless taken by surprise during the COVID-19 pandemic and found themselves without proper personal protective equipment or room to fully isolate patients.

Many new healthcare facilities are being built with energy efficiency and sustainability in mind. However, energy-efficient design does not always equate to disease control and prevention. It is crucial that healthcare systems work together with architecture and design teams to create facilities that are not only sustainable and aesthetically pleasing, but also maximize infection control, particularly airborne infection control.

Here are five hospital design strategies that will help limit the spread of disease indoors.

  1. More spacious waiting rooms. Lobbies, waiting rooms, hallways and stairs should be designed to support social distancing of at least three feet. This will reduce the transmission of infectious disease through aerosol droplets, which are emitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  2. Wide, straight hallways. Hospital corridors should be designed to accommodate social distancing, even when staff are moving wheelchairs and beds. Nooks and small seating areas should be removed from corridor design to prevent gathering and allow for more spacious interactions.
  3. Increased isolation room capacity. Isolation rooms with negative pressure are essential for containing airborne infectious disease and preventing transmission to patients and healthcare staff.
  4. More natural ventilation and sunlight. Natural ventilation can improve airflow and reduce dependence on ventilation systems. In some studies, direct sunlight and UV rays have also been shown to aid infection prevention.
  5. Contactless parking. By installing contactless payment kiosks in parking structures and lots, hospitals can limit shared surface area and therefore reduce infectious disease transmission risk. This technology allows staff, patients and visitors to use their mobile phones to access and pay for parking instead of employing more traditional methods, such as requiring drivers to touch a pay kiosk or accept tickets from a parking booth operator.

Life Balance Technologies helps hospitals and other companies improve airborne infection control and infection prevention and effectively manage their HVAC systems. By streamlining the process for compliance, auditing, and reporting, we help reduce costs and save lives.