Hospitals prioritize flexible design to fare better in future disease outbreaks

In the wake of lessons learned during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals are now rethinking traditional design and prioritizing flexible spaces to bolster surge capacity and isolation in future infectious disease outbreaks, The New Times reported Sept. 13. 

In a hurry to create more space for contagious patients in the early pandemic surges, hospitals resorted to setting up overflow tents in parking lots. 

"During the pandemic, [hospitals] were doing hopscotch, or leapfrog; they had to adapt on the fly," Douglas King, vice president of healthcare at real estate consulting firm Project Management Advisors, told the Times. "Now hospitals are identifying wards, usually of 24 to 34 beds, and they can stack some of those wards together to become pandemic wards." 

Rooms for vulnerable and contagious patients have features not found in typical inpatient rooms, such as larger floor pans for specialized equipment and specific ventilation systems. Since hospitals need more of these specialized areas during times of crisis and disease outbreaks, they're looking at how traditional rooms can quickly be converted to accommodate contagious patients who may require more critical care.

Doylestown (Pa.) Hospital opened an ICU last year that has private rooms meant to "flex between intensive care and step-down care," the Times reports. The rooms are grouped in pods of eight to reduce traffic in corridors. 

"The pandemic proved the need to have flexible space," Jim Brexler, chief executive of Doylestown Health, told the news outlet. "The impact of having adequate critical care space was essential, and you don't want to build all that out and not be able to use it for other purposes." 

Read the full piece here

 

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