Emergency Department Design: Three Ways To Contain Superbugs

Katheryn Fricke | MEDCITY News | August 27, 2014

Today, the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa is turning attention to the strategies hospitals use to contain infectious diseases. How do emergency departments serve and treat highly contagious patients while keeping other patients, clinicians, and the community at large safe? Are U.S. hospitals prepared for outbreaks of highly contagious diseases?

Many of the answers lie in matters of emergency department design. Decisions made in the process of creating an ED can shape the way it responds to infectious diseases years down the line.  Let’s take a look at some of these decisions – as well as practical ways hospitals can better ready themselves for a range of outbreaks. Below, we’ve collected three key steps hospitals can take: some mandated by today’s building codes and others that are more proactive.

...First, emergency departments in the U.S. must include an isolation space that utilizes negative air pressure to prevent the spread of airborne germs. With this technique, you expel air from a space through specialized filters more quickly than the room is filled with new air, effectively sealing the area. In addition to isolation spaces, current code calls for emergency department triage and waiting spaces to ventilate with negative air pressure as well, since undiagnosed patients may spend time in these rooms first...