Patient Room Monitoring: Managing the Environment to Impact Clinical Outcomes

5 May 2021

Smart buildings have risen in popularity across a variety of settings. Not only have they become more common in corporate settings, but they are also entering the healthcare field--to immense advantage. Patient room monitoring and managing the environment properly can have a huge impact on the overall health of patients during their stay. By monitoring and managing patient environments, you can help improve their clinical outcomes and provide a more comfortable stay.

How Patient Room Monitoring Impacts Clinical Outcomes

Humidity Matters

Humidity has a major impact on the spread of infectious diseases. According to the EPA, healthy indoor humidity should remain between 30-50%. At or above 40% indoor humidity, the influenza virus has a much lower likelihood of spreading when aerosolized. Low temperatures and low relative humidity can also cause COVID-19 to spread more easily, according to some research.

Controlling humidity in your medical space can prove critical to creating a healthier environment for your patients. At extremely low relative humidity--below 20%--your patients, as well as visitors to your facility, may more easily transmit germs. Those germs spread through the environment, leading to facility-based outbreaks of diseases that could cause devastation to many of the patients under your care. Maintaining optimal humidity in your environment may not completely eliminate the risk of spreading infectious diseases. But it can lower it significantly, which can help keep your patients safer.  

Keeping the Right Humidity Balance

Maintaining the right balance of humidity is hard. At low levels of humidity, you may have optimal conditions for increased virus growth. High levels of humidity can raise the risk of mold growth in your environment. 

Mold can cause its own host of problems, particularly in healthcare settings. Some patients may have mold allergies. This means that an environment that offers optimal conditions for mold could set off respiratory distress. Even people who do not have serious mold allergies may experience a variety of respiratory problems when exposed to some types of mold, including:

  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased risk of developing asthma or showing asthmatic symptoms, especially in children

As a result, maintaining the optimal humidity level through patient room monitoring is critical to ensuring that patients have the best possible outcomes. This is true not only in terms of reducing the overall likelihood of transmitting diseases but in decreasing the risk that patients will suffer declining health outcomes as a result of mold exposure.

Using Kontakt.io's Portal Beam

Kontakt.io's Portal Beam can help provide the information you need to optimize patient room monitoring and the rest of the clinical environment. With Portal Beam, you can monitor indoor humidity levels, track the changes in humidity over time, and make the changes needed to help keep your patients safer. Portal Beam allows free airflow through the sensors to capture a fingerprint of each room's environmental status. This means you can make needed changes to keep your patients more comfortable and healthier on a room-by-room basis. 

New State Regulations on Indoor Air Quality Standards

California and New Jersey have both implemented standards that demand improved indoor air quality in workplace environments. As OSHA notes, indoor air quality can impact overall worker health and comfort. Poor indoor air quality can cause a variety of symptoms: headaches, fatigue, concentration difficulties, irritation in the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.

In patient care environments, indoor air quality quickly becomes even more important. By taking a look at the standards issued in California and New Jersey, hospitals and patient care facilities across the country can offer better care for their patients. This includes:

Tracking Contaminants in the Air

New Jersey's regulations note the dangers associated with contaminants in the air, including contaminants created by cooling towers and vents. In some cases, New Jersey hospitals and businesses may need to move the sources of those contaminants or add additional ventilation in an effort to reduce the impact on the indoor air quality. In patient care settings, monitoring those contaminants can make it easier to ensure positive patient outcomes. 

Controlling Microbial Contamination

In hospitals and other patient care facilities, managing the potential for microbial contamination is critical. Viruses can transmit quickly through those environments. Resulting in considerable illness for those patients who may already have preexisting conditions or other challenges that may, due to decreased immunity or an over-stretched immune system, harm patient health. 

Monitoring and Responding to Excess Temperature

In a hot, humid environment, patients may have decreased outcomes, especially patients who have experienced severe trauma. Exposure to excess heat can also negatively impact overall patient outcomes, especially if they already have a fever. Patients in too-hot rooms may suffer from increased irritability and loss of concentration as well as poorer outcomes related to overall patient health. 

Decreased Exposure to Pollutants

According to California indoor air quality standards, in addition to the standards described by New Jersey regulations, businesses must also pay attention to potential pollutants in the air. Excess exposure to pollution can cause a wide range of potential health problems, including loss of lung capacity, premature aging of the lungs, and decreased overall lung function. Monitoring potential pollutants in the healthcare environment can help prevent patients from developing increased lung challenges, or struggling to handle the additional weight of pollution in addition to the ailments they're already dealing with. 

Decreasing the Instance of Dry, Stuffy Air

Surveys of office users have found an association between low RH (5-30%) and a number of complaints about dry, stuffy air and health issues. Dry, stuffy air can quickly dry out the skin, cause tightness around the joints, and influence nosebleeds, eye irritation, and sore throat. Not only that, a very dry indoor environment may increase the risk of dehydration and increase stress levels. Managing stress in the hospital setting is critical for both patients and workers. Patients under high levels of stress may have a hard time recovering fully from their ailments, leading to a longer overall recovery time or less favorable patient outcomes.

Building vs. Room Pressure: Explained

In high-pressure rooms, air can leave the room without coming back in, allowing airborne particles to be filtered out. That means that potential contaminants in nearby rooms will not enter patient care rooms. This can lead to improvement in overall patient outcomes and a decrease in patient risks. Low-pressure rooms, on the other hand, trap air and any potentially harmful particles that air might carry. In hospitals, for example, you might not want air flowing out of the waiting areas and emergency departments, where people have a high risk of carrying serious airborne illness. Triage areas, bathrooms, autopsy and dark rooms, and soiled laundry areas can also benefit from low-pressure airflow, helping prevent any potential contaminants in those rooms from flowing outside.

In order to ensure the best possible outcomes, however, you must monitor that airflow and make sure that you identify and deal with any problems quickly and efficiently. Failure to address those problems could result in increased challenges for patients throughout the facility. 

Portal Beam for Environmental Monitoring

Indoor air quality isn't just a buzzword term. More people have become aware of the potential challenges associated with poor indoor air quality. And the importance of maintaining that air quality and providing a healthier environment has increased in businesses across a variety of industries. In healthcare settings, indoor air quality has become more important than ever. 

Portal Beam can help you achieve your goals.

Through its high-quality sensors, Portal Beam's patient room monitoring captures an ongoing snapshot of everything happening in the air within the patient's room—all the things you cannot see on your own. You can track carbon monoxide, potential contaminants in the air, humidity, and a variety of factors, all of which can have a significant impact on your ability to care for your patients. All of that information is stored and transmitted via secure Kio Cloud. Furthermore, you can track changes to indoor air quality and make alterations as needed, in real-time, for the best possible patient outcomes. 

Are you ready to start improving your patients' environments through patient room monitoring? Order your cloud-enabled Portal Beam today.

Aneta Ciurkot

Director, Product Marketing

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    [Updated for 2020]
    [Updated for 2020]