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Revamping Healthcare Facilities for a COVID-19 World

By Katie Vander Putten

Director of Healthcare

By Kaye Mullaney

Senior Project Manager

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives and operations. This is especially true for healthcare providers, who must find ways to provide quality care while mitigating the risk of exposure to patients, visitors, and, of course, the healthcare professionals and other staff members who work in their facilities.

Flooded with options for how to update facilities, the below list provides a wide-angle rundown on the various strategies for managing this new set of challenges. The MOA team has implemented—or is in the process of implementing—these options for healthcare clients across the Front Range.

Address Indoor Air Quality

The single most important change a facility can make is assessing and addressing indoor air quality. Some of the strategies involved include advanced air quality monitoring to negative pressure conversions for patient rooms to the installation of UV filters.

Our team has assisted several clients—including St. Anthony Summit Medical Center and The Denver Hospice—with the negative pressure conversion of existing patient rooms in their facilities. We have also revisited ongoing designs to incorporate more negative air treatment spaces.

Provide a Touchless Experience

While studies have shown that transmission risk through contact with surfaces is lower than thought at the start of the pandemic, there is still risk involved in a hospital setting. As people move through a space, there are endless surfaces that provide potential for transmission, including door handles, sinks, elevator buttons, pens, railings, countertops, and many more. Reducing or eliminating the need for users to touch these surfaces offers an obvious way to limit transmission of COVID-19 (not to mention other diseases!) through surfaces.

Our team has worked with clients to install hand sensors and other sensor-activated equipment in their facilities to limit these high-touch surfaces. Because bathrooms are identified as a vector for transmission, touchless sinks are a critical way to limit surface contact in a facility.

Create Opportunities to Maintain Safe Distances

If any proven strategy has emerged in our collective fight against the spread of COVID-19, it is maintaining safe distances between people. The installation of sneeze guards and screens at check-in desks and nursing stations is one way to incorporate cues for social distancing into the healthcare setting.

The resetting of furniture layouts is another way to signal the recommended social distancing guidelines. Tape markers and other more permanent floor markers are another way to manage social distancing in spaces that involve queuing, such as pharmacies.

Introduce Telemedicine into Your Service Line

The next, natural step in maintaining safe distance is to extend that distance far beyond the CDC-recommended six feet and provide care remotely through telemedicine.

Several of our clients, including Kaiser Permanente, have decided to pivot existing outpatient medical offices into telemedicine-only environments. This transition is not so straightforward as closing the exam room door and cracking open a laptop with a webcam. FGI guidelines provide clear direction for the design of these spaces, including consideration of color rendering index (CRI) and finishes, in order to ensure the best-possible environment for reviewing symptoms and providing diagnosis.

Rethink Movement and Circulation through Your Facility

In order to reduce the number and frequency of person-to-person interactions within their facilities, many providers have been forced to completely reconsider established patient flows and staff workflows.

The challenge begins with what now is a rite for everyone in the COVID-19 era: temperature-taking. Many healthcare facilities (not to mention other businesses and establishments) require each visitor’s temperature to be taken and logged. Naturally, this step introduces a wrinkle into existing check-in procedures.