Re-Imagining Healthcare Design After COVID-19

While we can't know for certain what healthcare in the U.S. will look like in the future, those of us in healthcare design are in a unique position to both watch and guide our clients towards possible solutions to changes as they happen. Here are some areas where we see change coming...

Better Infection Prevention

We believe that a hospital’s infection prevention team will have a louder voice in many design meetings going forward. There will be increased pressure from all corners to focus on cleanable features during design, as well as the implementation of finishes that withstand harsher chemicals. It's also fair to say that many more health systems will begin using UV light or sterilizing mists in high- and medium-risk areas. Low-risk areas like exam rooms will need more thorough cleaning protocols and room turnover processes – without sacrificing the warmth and hospitality of today’s designs!

Increasing Isolation Room Capacity

The biggest adaptation that most facilities have undertaken during the pandemic is the increase of isolation rooms. Moving ahead, hospitals will need groups of rooms and entire units and wings that can be negatively pressurized and cut off from the rest of the hospital in a pandemic. These units will need easy ways to get patients in from the ED, as well as trash out, without going through the entire hospital.

Telemedicine's Impact on Facility Size

The use of telemedicine has exploded throughout this crisis, allowing doctors to perform routine check-ups without putting anyone at risk. While the specific use cases to which telemedicine will extend is still unclear, the impact on our designs will be tremendous. The technology is relatively cheap, physicians can see more patients in the same amount of time, and there are virtually no space requirements!

Finding Surge Capacity in Outpatient Centers

The continued growth in ambulatory care will resume as soon as our current crisis passes. Because many of these facilities are often owned outright by healthcare systems and already have existing emergency power, they have the potential to provide faster surge capacity than the field hospitals being erected in hotels and convention centers. Many hospitals already include these buildings within their surge plans, even though they weren’t specifically designed to accommodate this use. As we develop outpatient clinics, freestanding EDs, and ambulatory surgery centers, we must consider the infrastructure that’s necessary for these facilities to support sicker patients during the next pandemic!

More Than Just a Trend

Unlike most healthcare design trends that develop over several years, these changes have already become painfully necessary as hospitals and health systems were forced to solve extreme problems on impossible time tables. In the coming years, these organizations will need to adjust their operations for future pandemics, codes will need to be rewritten to safely meet these new situations, and government grants will be necessary to encourage hospitals to make these changes permanent.

What changes is your hospital making? Let us know!

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