Published April 2022
By Brad Sweet, commercial marketing leader at Allegion
We all know the health care industry was upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. We saw it on the news, we read about it online. Some of us even experienced the changes in health care firsthand.
To get an informed understanding of what had changed inside hospitals, Allegion explored how COVID-19 affected the health care industry in its latest research, “2022 Health Care Trends Report: A study on how health care facilities are using technology to meet the demands of the changing landscape.” Day-to-day operations and infrastructure changed, and trends emerged that could change the future of health care facilities.
While door hardware might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of combatting the spread of hospital acquired infections (HAIs), many hospitals made alterations for healthier access throughout their facilities last year in response to the coronavirus.
9 in 10 are using hands-free and touchless access products, with 61% saying they are using these products more as a result of the pandemic
Prevention of hospital acquired infections has always been a priority in hospitals and will continue to be crucial post-pandemic. According to STATnews.com, 2 million HAIs each year led to 90,000 related deaths prior to the pandemic.
That said, this pandemic was unlike anything hospitals have experienced. Facilities reprioritized and adopted new technologies to keep patients and staff safe. Many hospitals opted for a hands-off approach. By that I mean they are using solutions like automatic door operators or hands-free door pulls to eliminate the need to open a door by hand. Nearly 60 percent are using these products more today than before the pandemic.
Sometimes touching surfaces is inevitable. This is true for door hardware and beyond, extending to bed rails, faucets and more. In these situations, there are antimicrobial surface technologies to reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses.
Antimicrobials are being used by a majority of facilities today according to the research—with 73% using them more today than before the pandemic.
Silver-based coatings are the most popular option being used in hospitals today, with copper among the lesser-used options. This is interesting given recent attention to antimicrobial copper and the EPA’s announcement about copper alloys providing long-term effectiveness against viruses. It appears there is still much to be learned about the benefits of copper alloys in health care.
Hospitals, which are generally open and accessible to visitors, had to control the flow of people and restrict access to specific areas during the pandemic.
One C-Suite respondent stated in the survey: “We have had to go to a single entrance/exit to the facility where we can screen [everyone]. Therefore, we have used our access control system to shut down the other entrances/exits.”
Given this, it’s no surprise that hospitals reported the pandemic impacted security-related initiatives in their facilities. Nearly 75% restricted access to previously open areas and 62% electrified openings with access control.
If there was ever a test of resiliency in health care facilities, this was it. Nearly 90% of the health care professionals surveyed cited at least one way that the COVID-19 affected their organization’s infrastructure needs and plans.
Initiatives were paused at nearly a quarter of the organizations surveyed, 12% had a decrease in budget or spending, and 9% had to shift priorities.
One facility director shared, “In 2020 when COVID-19 first hit, our health system was forced to put a pause on some of the infrastructure projects. We are slowly starting to resume some of these projects.”
New initiatives take money, but not all hospitals saw an increase in cash flow. More than half had an increase in facility management and construction expenses last year. Yet only 40% saw an increase in funding to help cover the costs.
Luckily grants and funds were available to help health care facilities. Nearly 60% received funding or grants, and most (72%) used the money for alterations and renovations to existing facilities. Another 54 percent used the funding for equipment.
The health care industry has experienced a couple of challenging years, and as we saw from our research, had to pivot to adjust to the new normal. I don’t foresee many of these changes being temporary or isolated to this pandemic.
We’ve grown wary of the surfaces we touch, welcoming more hands-free solutions. And with the rate of HAI’s in hospitals, antimicrobials are likely to be used in varying ways. Electronic access control was on the rise before the pandemic, plus there is growing interest in data and automation which will only further accelerate the use of these products.
Therefore, I think many of these pandemic trends will be here to stay. The lessons learned from the past two years will make the industry better in many ways.
To learn more about the pandemic’s impact on hospitals and health care facilities, download the findings from the 2022 Health Care Trends Report: A study on how health care facilities are using technology to meet the demands of the changing landscape.