Development Director, Community
The onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic calls for an all-hands-on-deck approach, not only for health professionals but for architects, engineers, and nurse design experts as well. It also requires that typical business silos and competitiveness be put aside. The goal is to provide solutions to relieve pressure on hospitals and staff so they can focus on higher acuity patients requiring vital life support systems.
Jennie’s 20 years of experience in the health design industry provided her with the expertise needed to work with architects, hospital administrators, and researchers to quickly turn non-traditional building types into alternate care locations.
The HKS team immediately identified places such as schools, hotels and public assembly spaces that could be used for patient care. They studied COVID-19—its cause and the impacts on a person’s health—to determine the patient population best suited for an alternate care site.
Using the CDC patient tier framework, HKS identified low acuity patients as being the ideal patient population for these environments. Patient types included:
- Suspected of being a COVID-19 carrier
- Confirmed positive but not presenting with severe symptoms
- Positive and living with someone in a high-risk population; positive
- Living alone and unable to care for themselves
- Recovering and still requiring sequestration.
Keeping the evidence-based principles for health design in mind such as patient experience, patient and staff safety, good air quality, lighting, and other design domains, HKS worked with architectural specialist to determine how to convert spaces to provide patient care and patient care support.
Jennie and her team used the lean framework for the basic flows of health care to inform and validate that their approach for patient care operations would be appropriate for these low acuity patients. These included the workflow of the providers, patient movement, access to medications, food, equipment and supplies, internal and external communication, along with waste removal.
Letting go of preconceived notions of how care spaces should look and function created innovative possibilities. A hotel or a school is not ideal for patient care, yet it is better than sitting in a loud, brightly lit hallway in an emergency room chair, or in a tent.
COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of change. Going forward, city planners may consider including schools, hotels, and large assembly spaces in their annual emergency planning. In addition, existing barriers to using technology for patient care have been removed, allowing for a new wave of possibilities. Imagine robots that clean spaces and inform the public about safe health practices; new ventilators and types of face masks; or antiseptics spraying from our mobile devices.
Without question, this pandemic has been devastating for many families and the mental toll on health workers and others will require time to heal. But Jennie learned that by working adeptly and collaboratively, realistic solutions can be designed that can help save lives and keep health care workers safe now, and in the future.