Facility leaders share their thoughts on what to expect this year and beyond
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In addition to balancing security and life safety concerns, healthcare facilities increasingly are focused on reducing the risk of healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs). While many healthcare organizations have succeeded in cutting the frequency of HAIs, on any given day, about three percent of patients have at least one healthcare-associated infection, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One step to reducing HAIs is minimizing the number of times healthcare providers, patients, and others come into contact with surfaces, including doors, on which germs and bacteria can reside. A 2014 study by Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona found the contamination of a single doorknob or table top could result in the spread of viruses throughout office buildings, hotels, and health care facilities. Indeed, within two to four hours, viruses could be detected on 40 to 60 percent of workers and visitors in the facilities, as well as on commonly touched objects.
Touchless doors can help stop the spread of germs and bacteria. They also can be easier for some individuals with disabilities to use.
“Low energy” doors are required to be activated by “a knowing action.” This could be an individual waving his or her hands near the touchless actuator, says Laura Frye, director of education and certification with DHI. Because these doors require this step, it’s less likely someone would inadvertently open them.
“High energy” doors don’t require a knowing action. Instead, they may open when, for instance, an individual steps on a mat or is detected by a motion sensor at the door. They open quickly and must include safety sensors that will stop the door if it senses something in its path, Frye says.
Numerous regulations govern all automatic doors. To ensure compliance with these rules, facility managers may want to engage independent experts in doors and door hardware.
A particular concern in behavioral health units is the risk that a patient will use an object to injure or kill him- or herself. For instance, depending on their shape, some doorknobs could be used to anchor a noose or cord the patient then uses as a strangling device.
Ligature-resistant door hardware is designed to hinder these efforts. For instance, cone-shaped knobs, as well as knobs with sloping surfaces, can make it difficult for a noose or cord to remain attached.