High-Consequence Infectious Disease: Principles & Models for Patient Safety

The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa raised awareness of the need for renewed efforts to safely care for patients with highly pathogenic infectious diseases. We learned that these diseases pose a significant risk not only to patients, but to healthcare workers as well. While the risks of working in Africa are different from working in Western countries, a high rate of infection was experienced in Western personnel working with these patients both in Africa and in the U.S.

If future outbreaks occur, it’s likely that suspected or confirmed patients will be brought to the U.S. for care. It’s important that we recognize, assess and plan to address the risk rationally and proactively.

As the leading design firm for both healthcare and science facilities, we assembled a core team of planners, architects and engineers who have planned patient biocontainment isolation units and BSL-3 and BSL-4 containment facilities on six continents. Working with the Eagleson Institute, we sponsored a colloquium on patient-care facilities for highly pathogenic infectious diseases. Representatives from CDC, the University of Nebraska, Emory University, UCLA and the Association of Infection Control Professionals participated. The group reviewed lessons learned from the first round of Ebola patients cared for in the U.S., design and operational issues for the facilities supporting their care and safety for healthcare workers and the general community.

This white paper provides an overview of the issues and ideas discussed during the colloquium. They will assist design teams and healthcare organizations to develop appropriate operational and facility responses for both emergency room intake and patient care biocontainment units.