Hopefully, you aren’t reading this post out of necessity. But at some point, most people will end up in the hospital. When you do have to go in, knowing about the things that could help or hurt your recovery is useful. Factors such as the rating of the hospital, their access to specialists and equipment and the individual doctor’s skill all have an impact. One thing you might not consider, though, is the air quality.
Air Quality in the OR
There are some areas where you can expect to find a pretty high level of air quality control, like the operating room. There’s a lot of stuff in the air, and some of that stuff you don’t want to float around while you’re having surgery. This goes double for a hospital, which tends to have a high population of sick people.
Just making sure contaminants don’t get into the air supply requires a pretty intensive filtration system. On top of that, most people aren’t going under the knife while awake, which means the surgeon or anesthesiologist is using an anesthetic gas. That’s great for the patient, but no one wants their doctors passing out on them!
When it comes to air quality, hospitals have a lot to monitor, including fire, oxygen, other gases in the room, patient allergies and any excess anesthetic. There are various safeguards in place to keep potential problems from occurring.
While the operating room may be paramount for indoor air quality, that doesn’t mean the rest of the hospital isn’t important. Remember all those sick people hanging out there? They need attention, too, and they don’t need to spread their germs around. They don’t need to get sicker or stay in bad conditions, either, so paying attention to the air in the rest of the hospital is a priority.
Controlling the quality of the air in the hospital helps reduce the rate of transmissible infections. So it makes a lot of sense that the cleaner and better monitored the air is, the better patient outcomes tend to be. A recent study found that when hospitals keep room windows closed, and do not allow outdoor air in, it leads to a significant increase in airborne pathogens. Opening windows isn’t an option everywhere, regardless of how helpful it might be. Everything in medicine comes down to risk versus reward, and the reward of reducing pathogens is often outweighed by the risk of outside air.
The more pathogens there are, the higher risk of infection. An efficient emissions monitoring system can help with that. The entire hospital needs to be monitored for levels of waste anesthetic gases, which can occur in any facility that uses anesthesia, including dental offices and veterinary clinics. Some systems can monitor and clean air particulates down to levels around 2 ppm, which is incredibly safe.
From the Outside in
Even with emissions monitoring, the air will still be affected by the outside. Dirty air outside can contribute to respiratory irritations and infections. The Infection Control Risk Assessment matrix helps hospitals figure out which areas have patients at the highest risk from exposure to outside pollutants. It also helps them know what to do to prevent exposure. And the worse the outside air quality is, the less helpful it is to open windows.
All these safety protocols and efforts to prevent transmissions can be null and void if the hospital doesn’t maintain their equipment. For this reason, rigorous testing and maintenance should be part of the hospital’s routine. Checking for leaks and loose valves and ensuring clean working conditions when HVAC work is happening is vital.
Hospitals need to monitor everything from humidity to air pollution. A hospital with mold in the walls will make people sick, but mold contamination is easy to miss. Dehumidifiers, air purifying systems and air monitoring systems are all part of a hospital’s efforts to maintain clean air for their patients.
Even though hospitals may try their best to keep everyone healthy and safe, they can only take the steps they know for sure are effective. New research can lead to new ideas and can help make patients safer and more comfortable. The requirements vary substantially from facility to facility. The better an understanding we can get of how to keep the air clean inside and out, the better off everyone will be once they get home.