COVID-19 Lasting Impact on Healthcare Design

Posted by on Jul 8, 2022 in Behind the Design
COVID-19 Lasting Impact on Healthcare Design

Even though the covid-19 pandemic may be slowing down there is still a lasting impact on the healthcare system. A study was done to see where the holes were in the healthcare system that left them so unprepared for something of this magnitude. Below are the highlights of what the study found, click here to read the full article.

Patient Care Delivery

The survey identified a set of key findings relating to patient care that includes minimized patient interaction, a lack of equity between facilities, changing standards for care delivery, patient visualization, and the increased use of temporary surge units. (Source)

Many locations reported that they minimized staff and patient interaction during surges. While this didn’t come as a surprise, what’s interesting to note is that facilities uniquely navigated these challenges. In existing medical/surgical bed units, several temporary ante rooms were constructed. Wall sleeves are installed between the corridor and patient rooms to allow equipment to be controlled from hallways. (Source)

Patient and Visitor Screening

Facility team respondents relayed how their creativity and resources helped problem-solve during the height of the first wave. This experience will impact the design and planning of future projects. Solutions ranged from screening at entry points to ways of improving airflow into ICU rooms. At the onset of the pandemic, screening everyone who entered the facilities was paramount. The fastest and simplest diagnostic measure was monitoring for fevers. (Source)

Facilities quickly installed power and data that were needed at entries to implement remote thermal scanning and temperature guns, which continue to be used in hospital settings and have also been rolled out across outpatient settings. (Source)

Healthcare Staff Fatigue

Due to the lack of trained healthcare professionals, many people were asked to work longer shifts than normal. Doctors and nurses were extremely exhausted and were being kept away from their family and friends. This led to an increase in anxiety, depression, and healthcare providers quitting.

Future Healthcare Design Plans

The pandemic has shown the healthcare system that there are some areas that they need to work on to ensure that if this happens again, they are better prepared. Some of these changes can be seen in the way that healthcare facilities are designed.

1. Plan for large population health events.

Separating out staff entry sequences is also a way to accommodate the public more easily than mixing staff in with them during pandemic surges. Exterior panelized walls and modular infrastructure systems can be added to building exteriors to expand and contract entrance sequences, allowing patients to wait in temperate space. (Source)

Current waiting areas should be modified, and future waiting areas should be designed to meet safe distance separations requirements of six feet, with furniture quantities reduced and seating areas should be arranged in smaller groupings to maintain distancing. (Source)

2. Flexible and adaptable is the new normal.

Developing patient rooms that can flex to different acuity levels were once considered a luxury but now it’s a must-have. These flexible units are designed for the highest level of critical care with higher medical gases, more air changes, and direct exhaust, and a higher power supply all to meet the critical care requirement. The design of these flexible units should consider the additional equipment needs that ventilators and bi-pap units bring to the design, and patient rooms should be sized to accommodate this equipment at the critical care level. (Source)

3. Staff safety.

Designers can help institutions look for underutilized spaces within the hospital campus to help store supplies. Additional support spaces should be considered to allow staff to transition from infectious spaces to clean areas, take off PPE, shower, and change into non-infected clothing to travel home. Providing two sets of doors that are normally kept open but can be shut to create an ante room space for PPE donning/doffing is another way to aid in keeping staff safe and provide ease of PPE use. (Source)

4. Leverage technology.

Better communication can help patients understand the proposed treatments, and a caregiver can be part of those discussions. Using voice-activated devices in the rooms can allow nursing teams to accomplish tasks remotely. Technology can be given patients the ability to control certain elements such as window shades, lighting, temperature, and ordering food. (Source)

5. Building better infrastructure.

Without the right building systems in place to support patient care, the availability of space doesn’t matter. Hospitals are now considering including the costs of building increased power, medical gases, fresh air, and direct exhaust infrastructure to accommodate adaptable spaces for pandemic use.

And having a plan in place through the design of adaptable patient care units along with the infrastructure resources on reserve for these events can help make patient care during a pandemic more manageable. (Source)

Marie Wikoff is the creator of Wikoff Design Studio based out of Reno, Nevada. Her expertise in healthcare design has helped develop modern design for healthcare organizations locally, regionally and internationally. Her credentials include Evidence-Based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC), American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designer (CHID), the National Council of Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) and LEED AP. Contact Marie Wikoff

Source: Gow, Catherine, and Jennifer Kenson. “Covid-19’s Ongoing Impact on Healthcare Design – HCD Magazine.” HCD Magazine – Architecture & Interior Design Trends for Healthcare Facilities, 24 June 2022,

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