When Covid was discovered, every hospital had predetermined protocols for the diagnosis and treatment of patients. The C Suite and department directors painstakingly developed these standards and protocols after years of input. I listened to a webinar this week where 3 hospitals agreed that those were all negated the week that the virus hit their doors! The frontline workers have re-worked the standards and have adapted to the best and most effective ways to treat patients. Those who have the experience have set the protocols for the new normal.
I watched as photos were pinned to the webinar screen to illustrate how one hospital created a more human approach to care starting with the staff having facetime with the patient. Patients were issued Ipads and while the healthcare worker was outside the room, the patient conversed with the staff face to face through electronics. In an effort to save costs on PPE's, the staff moved ALL EQUIPMENT out of the patient room and into the adjacent corridor. All leads from the equipment to the patient were lengthened and flowed under the door to the bed. This was genius! The corridor became the patient bedside! Most work could be conducted without PPE's. There were, of course, times when the staff suited up and entered the room for hands-on care, but the patient knew who was working on them and had established a relationship with the nurse or physician. The patients felt less isolated.
Is this a contingency that hospital design might need to plan for in the future? Possibly. What we know now is that more flexibility needs to be built into care patient environments. If a hospital system can set up beds in a parking deck to address a pandemic, then designers and architects can certainly address flexibility in the future plans for hospitals. I believe that building codes will be re-written to allow more temporary conditions to prevail, that privacy curtains will be eliminated or replaced with disposable ones, that wood arms on chairs in a patient room are no longer viable with current cleaning methods, and paints and wall finishes need to pass muster with aerosol disinfection. This is just a small portion of the changes that will come out of the last couple of months.