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design thinkers

COVID-19: Working beside our healthcare clients

Technology, teamwork and foresight keeps healthcare industry on top of COVID-19

Anticipation is key to staying on top of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our healthcare design teams across the country remain a relevant resource to healthcare clients in their search for responsible and rapid responses to growing patient needs.  

We would like to share what we have learned about the ability to be a resource during this time. We are working with our clients to resolve issues related to space during the pandemic and have concluded that there are different approaches to dealing with patient surge and reduced site access:

1. Complete dedicated COVID-19 facilities.

Working closely with multiple State Health adjacencies and larger Health Systems, SLAM has been evaluating several, currently vacant, buildings on both the east and west coasts that could be converted into new operational facilities.  A high-level analysis of these existing buildings helps to validate how they could be modified to serve as control and triage centers for service areas or as standalone COVID-19 hospitals.

As a result of our assessments we recommended the adjustment of existing mechanical systems, a supply of AV and IT equipment, and the creation of testing and treatment rooms.  For example, in one state, a free-standing facility was identified that could yield nearly 300 beds within 3 weeks.

2. Physically separating spaces within existing hospitals.

The American Hospital Association (AHA), through the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) has shared information on appropriate methods to provide negative pressure within existing facilities and systems.  Using these methods, we have seen proactive clients throughout North America cordon off complete floors or entire wings of current departments, to provide containment areas in Emergency Departments, Intensive Care Units, and Nursing Units.

Likewise, one client is looking to keep an old ICU operational after the new ICU project (currently completing construction) is opened.  Another client recalled their original plans to gut on old Emergency Department space and use it for storage after completion of a new facility. SLAM guided them to the decision to leave the vacant space intact, should it need to be utilized for another catastrophic event. They can now simply restart the air handling unit and add an isolation fan to augment the existing one.

3. Design and installation of modular offsite units.

Most of our clients are eager to set up temporary testing or emergency response facilities in parking lots or on parking decks.  MASH-style tents, for example, were made ready at one facility, while another retrofitted modular walls within a garage space for drive-through testing units, with easy entrance and exit points, for patients who remain in their cars.

As we see a reduction in visitors at medical campuses, we see a corresponding abundance of covered space, in close proximity to Hospitals. Additionally, we have discussed with facility engineers how additional modular built support spaces would fit within the now mostly empty parking garages.  These spaces could be adjacent to the building and provide direct exterior connection to separate elevators serving unoccupied floors, designated for consideration as COVID containment suites.

As the world continues to flex to accommodate a new normal, it is truly heartening to see the resiliency of our healthcare system and how our clients are responding to meet the ever-changing needs of this pandemic. SLAM design thinkers are committed to standing beside our clients as they ready themselves to meet the increasing volume of COVID-19 cases and deliver the care patients deserve.

The S/L/A/M Collaborative is practicing safety and taking all precautions recommended by the CDC across all of offices nationwide. Our staff is working remotely and responding to client needs with the same safety measures. Please visit the CDC website to access the most up to date information on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).


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