Creating a sanitary environment in a healthcare facility benefits patients, visitors, and employees. It not only supports their health, but makes everybody feel comfortable and safe in what can be a stressful environment. This includes proper ventilation, which has shown to be of the utmost importance in healthcare facilities. Read below to find out why!
Organizations such as the Facilities Guidelines Institute (FGI) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) have guidelines concerning ventilation in healthcare facilities. These guidelines are designed to increase efficiency and safety, which demonstrates how important ventilation is in these facilities.
The Joint Commission also enforces ventilation standards in healthcare facilities. It is an organization that ensures around 22,000 healthcare facilities throughout the United States are up to their standards and offers accreditation. According to their website, their mission is to “continuously improve health care for the public … by evaluating health care organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value.” Healthcare facilities that do not meet Joint Commission standards risk losing their accreditation.
One area that the Joint Commission emphasizes is pressurization/ventilation. They define ventilation as “moving air from one location to another” and non-compliance results when “the ventilation system is unable to provide appropriate pressure relationships, air-exchange rates, and filtration efficiencies.” Certain areas such as operating rooms, laboratories, and sterile processing rooms require frequent “air changes” to help maintain a certain level of safety and cleanliness.
Lower Energy Costs
Hospitals are very costly to operate. They consume a higher amount of energy relative to similarly sized buildings, and there are few ways to decrease costs. A 200,000-square-foot hospital with 50 beds spends roughly $680,000 annually on electric and gas costs. This equates to $13,611 per bed, and there is not much room for leeway, as lots of electronics are constantly plugged in and running.
Even though there are not many ways to cut costs when operating a healthcare facility, proper ventilation can lead to lower energy expenses. Proper and efficient ventilation leads to less wasted air, which, in turn, decreases energy costs.
Improved Indoor Air Quality
Ventilation also helps improve indoor air quality. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), concentrations of airborne pollutants can be higher indoors than outdoors. This is especially true in healthcare centers, as dust, dirt, debris, and bacteria can quickly build up in stagnant air. Fortunately, ventilation helps keep air moving and prevents the buildup of airborne pathogens.
Reduces Hospital Associated Infections
HAIs, or hospital associated infections, are infections or illnesses acquired at a healthcare facility that are unrelated to the patient’s original condition. Patients in healthcare facilities often have weakened immune systems, meaning they are more at risk of developing HAIs. This can be problematic when visiting or staying in a healthcare facility, as there may be an increased risk of exposure to pathogens. Common HAIs include pneumonia, bloodstream infections, and surgical site infections. Also known as nosocomial infections, there are many different causes for HAIs.
Studies have shown that proper ventilation and the resulting improved indoor air quality can reduce the risk of HAIs. Researchers from Spain’s University of Cordoba measured the relationship between displacement ventilation and patient infection.
Displacement ventilation involves pushing air at low speeds into the patient’s room. The air is then displaced and rises to the upper parts of the room as it warms, bringing the pollutants and contaminants with it and expelling them into the vents or out the window. This was shown to decrease the patient’s exposure to harmful airborne bacteria and pathogens, which, in turn, reduced their chance of infection.
Proper ventilation also helps protect the health of employees and visitors of patients. While they have a lessened chance of developing an HAI than patients, they are still exposed to any airborne bacteria. Fortunately, proper ventilation can help keep everybody in a healthcare facility healthy and safe.
Proper ventilation and thermostats also helps create a comfortable environment for patients, employees, and other guests. The stress of a healthcare facility can feel overwhelming, whether it is caused by long hours worked by an employee or a patient’s illness. Ventilation can increase one’s thermal comfort, which is how your body reacts to the temperature and external environment. This helps one remain calm, collected, and comfortable.
Ventilation Strategies for Healthcare Facilities
There are many simple ways to improve the ventilation in a healthcare facility. When possible, open doors and windows. This form of natural ventilation is one of the best ways to create air flow, and it will also help expel any harmful airborne materials from the room.
Using ductless mini split HVAC systems is another excellent way to improve ventilation. They consist of one outdoor condenser connected to one or more indoor air-handling units. Ductless mini splits offer many benefits over other HVAC units, such as central ducted systems and window air conditioners.
Ductless mini splits are highly efficient, meaning they help reduce your carbon footprint and lower your energy bill. This is especially helpful in healthcare facilities that consume high amounts of energy. They are also very versatile, as they can heat and cool any indoor area in even the most extreme outdoor climates. This helps ensure patients and employees are comfortable indoors.
Ductless mini splits also function as air filters, purifiers, and dehumidifiers. As they are heating and cooling the room, they are removing any harmful materials such as dust, dirt, pathogens, and bacteria from the air. This helps improve the indoor air quality and significantly reduces the risk of HAIs for patients.
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