Today I attended an NIHD webinar entitled “Infection Control in Healthcare Facilities,” presented by Tarkett. The presentation focused on educating the audience about infection prevention in healthcare design. The presenter also reviewed some of the methods hospitals use to prevent the spread of hospital associated infections (HAI’s). But the heart of the discussion centered around the healthcare built environment. More specifically, flooring selection as a tool for infection prevention. As someone whose career has been in medical equipment planning, I learned more about flooring in one hour than I ever learned in my nearly two decades participating in design meetings. Thank you to NIHD and Tarkett for this valuable learning opportunity.
Infection Prevention in a Nutshell
We, as a society, use a number of methods to prevent infection in everyday life. Handwashing, wearing masks, and following coughing etiquette (the Dracula cough) are key. But in healthcare facilities, the stakes are high enough that the built environment plays a critical role. Hospitals face an environment that is constantly exposed to pathogens combined with patients who are immunocompromised. Some pathogens are airborne, and others are transmitted via surface contact. Some are viruses, others are bacteria. When immunocompromised patients are exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, we have a recipe for disaster. Consequently, nearly every hospital has infection prevention specialists on staff. The CDC and other agencies also offer a plethora of guidelines on infection prevention.
Medical Equipment Planning Impacts
As I listened to the discussion about the different types of surfaces and cleaning/disinfection guidelines in hospitals, I started to think more about how much medical equipment planning impacts infection prevention. In design meetings, we often have a representative from our client’s Infection Prevention team. They talk about a variety of things, from handwashing sinks to workflow across a med/surg unit. Medical equipment lives in all of these spaces. And medical equipment planning teams should be looking through the lens of infection prevention as we recommend and place equipment. In medical equipment planning, our job is to interface with multiple stakeholders through the life of a project. We should be asking leading questions that help us define the equipment and our clients define their operational plan. Questions around how and how often the space will be disinfected and whether any additional local or hospital-specific requirements. Examples include the requirements for built-in vs. sloped-top cabinets in Cath Labs and OR’s, the density of hand sanitizer dispensers on a patient floor, and the use of no-touch disinfection devices. Healthcare systems have prioritized Infection Prevention for years, even more so since 2020. We expect that trend to continue. In medical equipment planning, we are here to ensure that hospitals are equipped to provide exceptional patient care. Preventing HAI’s is a critical factor in achieving that success.
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