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How has COVID-19 Impacted Healthcare Facility Design?

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed some major flaws in our healthcare system as hospitals and other facilities struggled to provide space for the large influx of patients needing care. Due to the highly contagious nature of the virus, hospitals weren’t able to take in all coronavirus patients because of fear of transmission to healthcare professionals and patients with other symptoms. Modern healthcare facilities need an ability to adapt and be flexible to care for an increased number of patients in the face of a pandemic or other disastrous event, and this is the expected trend with healthcare facility design moving forward even into the post-covid era.

It’s an ever-changing climate of healthcare that we are living in, and nobody is certain what the future of healthcare design will look like, but there are some trends which are expected to be seen in hospital design soon.  

One of the biggest issues with hospitals today is the crowding of certain areas such as waiting rooms and entryways. Coronavirus has heightened everybody’s awareness of the importance of social distancing practices, so how can hospitals adapt to decrease the risk of virus transmission inside of their facilities?  

#1 Virtual Check-ins

Virtual check-ins will create less crowding in the waiting rooms, and simplify the process of going to a healthcare facility. By allowing patients to check in and provide all the necessary information about themselves from their phone or computer, it eliminates the need for them to come into the facility and wait for a doctor to be ready to see them.

This means that patients would be able to wait in the comfort of their own car and not have to worry about being in close proximity to other sick patients who could potentially infect them. Virtual check-ins will greatly improve the ability for healthcare facilities to effectively social distance in their waiting rooms.  

#2 Manage Patient, Staff, and Supply Flow

Hospitals can be confusing and difficult to navigate for first time or non-frequent visitors, so improving patient flow is important to reduce risk of transmission. Better patient and staff flow can be achieved by a few different methods, but the most important factor is communicating to patients and staff what certain areas are designed for.  

  • Widening hallways and walking areas to allow for a two-way flow with a sufficient amount of prevent spread.  
  • Designating certain hallways and one-way walking areas to prevent the crowding of these spaces. 
  • Designating one area as the entrance and another as the exit to minimize the exposure of patients to one another.  
  • Designing certain areas of the facility to be safe zones or hot zones in order to keep contagious patients away from non-contagious ones.

#3 Designing Flexible Facilities with the Ability to Adapt

Hospitals are built in order to be cost-efficient and effective at providing care to patients, but hospital administrators may need to spend some more money in order to be able to adapt in the future. For example, most hospital entryways are not designed to provide screening and separate out potentially contagious patients. A trend that we are seeing with new hospital designs is to create dynamic entrances that create a space for screening and providing appropriate equipment for patients. This includes providing PPE to patients right when they come into the building, as well as placing hand sanitizer dispensers or hand washing stations such as the Lakeside Portable Handwashing Station near the entries. This would help reduce patients anxiety about going to a hospital for the care that they need, which has been reported to be increasing over the past several months.  

Another way in which hospitals will likely be able to treat an influx in patients is with a flexible design of patient rooms. Basic patient rooms are a stable in all hospitals, but the facilities that were best able to treat a large increase in patients were the ones that adapted these patient rooms to be able to serve as an ICU or emergency care area. One of the best ways that hospitals were able to do this is with portable storage mainly in the form of carts. Utility carts are a great solution for hospitals to store their PPE or other important equipment, while other specialty carts and treatment carts are great ways for a healthcare facilities to adapt their spaces and treat patients in rooms that they do not normally have special equipment. Lakeside manufactures a large variety of carts to allow hospitals to be flexible in the face of adversity, and adapt to keep giving patients the best care that they can. 

#4 Telemedicine and Virtual Health

One of the bright spots that has come from the coronavirus pandemic is the emergence of telemedicine and virtual healthcare, which completely mitigates the risk of transmission of exposure to other HAIs. We are just at the start of the virtual health age, and are only beginning to see the possibilities that this advancement provides. Although telehealth is a great way to eliminate the chance of transmission and reduce the use of essential equipment, it is not perfect and certainly has its flaws, which means that healthcare facilities should begin to implement it when possible, but should still plan for flexibility in the face of a crisis.  

#5 Improved Cleaning Techniques and Space Management

Keeping equipment and surfaces clean has always been a very important part of healthcare facilities, but coronavirus has proved that some of these cleaning protocols need to be improved. One way to do this is by designating certain rooms to be used and others to be cleaned. For example, a hospital may designate a certain wing for all infectious patients, providing them with extra time to disinfect another wing while still treating patients, and then switch the halls when all patients have been treated. This would allow hospitals the time they need to properly clean an infected room, while not falling behind on treating their patients.  

Another way to improve the cleaning process would be to implement anti-microbial surfaces such as stainless steel or copper, although this could cause the hospitals to see an increase in costs. However, mitigating patients anxiety about going to a hospital is very important in order to ensure that everyone can get the care and treatment that they need without having to worry about leaving worse off than when they arrived.  

Flexible Design Is More Valuable Than Ever

Healthcare facilities need to constantly adapt with new challenges that they are presented with, and don’t expect this to stop anytime soon. The ongoing pandemic has only accelerated the trend of flexible hospital design, and in the future you should certainly expect a different experience when you go to the hospital. 

Lakeside Manufacturing understands the difficulties that healthcare facilities face, and as a supplier to the industry, we continue to manufacture state-of-the-art equipment to allow hospitals and clinics to quickly adapt to the environment and give their patients the best possible experience in receiving the care that they need.  

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