Whether you are in the process of creating a medical clinic or reorganizing an existing clinic, reducing disease transmission is an important component of any healthcare setting. Although clinics are not designed to be sterile, there are ways you can minimize communicable diseases in high-traffic areas.
Improve The Layout
Many pediatric clinics have different areas for sick and well patients. This configuration is rarely seen in adult healthcare settings but can be important for reducing communicable disease transmission. Consider having different waiting areas depending on the concerns of the patient. You should also have dedicated exam rooms for specific functions. For example, some exam rooms may be set up to handle medical procedures, whereas others might be more appropriate for patients who have known contagious illnesses.
Despite your best efforts at keeping exam rooms clean, some illnesses are extremely contagious and can linger on door knobs or other surfaces for hours. For example, you never want a patient with highly contagious pinkeye to be in an exam room and immediately reuse the room for the next, relatively healthy patient.
Be Mindful Of Patient Scheduling
Try to establish a "cooling-off" period for each exam room. This will give janitorial staff and medical personnel adequate time to address any sanitation issues that arise between patients. An increased time lag between use of the same room will also reduce the likelihood of immediately transferring any germs from surface-to-surface or surface-to-human. Part of having a longer time gap between use of the exam room is having more rooms available to use. Since this is not always possible, being more careful about the number of appointments scheduled during the day and staying on schedule can reduce some of these problems.
Encourage Hand Sanitizer Use
Having dispensers of hand sanitizer readily available at entrances will encourage patients to engage in sanitation practices before entering the clinic. In recent years, medical professionals have been more thorough about their handwashing and use of hand sanitizer between patients. Although this is important, your facility should make strides to get everyone, even patients, on board with extra sanitation measures. When you install a hand sanitizer dispenser at the front door, add a note to people who are entering the building that they are encouraged to sanitize their hands before entering the clinic.
The general public is more apt to participate in extra sanitation measures during the highly publicized flu season, but not for everyday illnesses. Posters and other educational reference materials can be useful in showing patients that other illnesses do not have a seasonal pattern and can be greatly reduced by routinely using sanitation measures, especially in clinical settings.
Consider Ambient Threats
Hospital-grade air filtration systems are important for clinical settings and can reduce the transmission of airborne pathogens. Some pathogens that can be transmitted through a cough or sneeze include the seasonal flu or more serious illness like tuberculosis. Traditionally mild illnesses can be life-threatening for some of your patients. Since your office may see a wide variety of patients, such as those who are immunocompromised or taking immunosuppressive medications, the clinical setting should not be a threat to their health. You should also have disposable face masks readily available all year, which can be used for people who have signs of a respiratory infection or those who simply want to reduce their risk of airborne pathogens.
Use Multiple Cleaning Approaches
Keeping a clinical setting clean and as germ-free as possible may require multiple layers of cleaning. For example, you might want to establish different cleaning services for daily and weekly needs. Each day after closing, the janitorial team might perform vacuuming, dusting, and a wipe-down of non-porous surfaces using antibacterial wipes. Weekly cleanings should be more intense than daily maintenance of the clinic. This might involve more thorough disinfection of exam rooms and steam cleaning of any carpets, chairs, walls, or other surfaces. During weekly cleanings, this is also a good time to schedule removal of biohazardous waste and emptying of sharps containers for the upcoming work week.
Since clinical settings address the needs of both sick and well patients, this is a prime location to contract everyday illnesses. By creating a thorough approach to cleaning, disinfecting, and minimizing contact with infectious agents, you can reduce the number of patients and employees who contract communicable diseases in clinical settings. Hiring a great janitorial service can help with this.