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Preparing for High-Consequence Infectious Disease

According to a recent study conducted by the Commission on a Global Heath Risk Framework for the Future (GHRF Commission), the world is not prepared for the next pandemic crisis. Pandemic outbreaks are a damaging, global risk that could potentially result in the loss of $60 billion a year.

The Commission’s report, which was published on January 13, states that infectious disease needs to be viewed as more than strictly a health issue, but rather as a major problem that threatens both global security and economic stability.

“While there is a high degree of uncertainty,” the report states, “the commission’s own modeling suggests that we are more likely than not to see at least one pandemic over the next 100 years, and there is at least a 20 percent chance of seeing four or more.”

The 2014 Ebola outbreak raised awareness on the serious issues health institutions face in preparing for emerging infectious diseases … including how a reactive, after-the-event approach creates problems. Though the headlines around Ebola have slowed, with the Zika virus poised to effect as many as four million people by the end of the year, addressing the risk posed by infectious disease is more crucial than ever.

So how do we prepare for the next global epidemic? Based on lessons learned from patient containment units at Emory University and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, we present ten principles to guide the design of health facilities to prepare for another outbreak in the future:

High-Consequence Infectious Disease: 10 Principles for Patient Safety

  1. UNDERSTAND the biocontainment risks unique to healthcare
  2. PLAN and prepare for the unexpected
  3. PROVIDE flexible patient care spaces
  4. PRIORITIZE engineering controls over protocols
  5. INTEGRATE facility design with operational protocols
  6. CONTROL contamination through separation
  7. ELIMINATE airborne spread of infectious agents
  8. CHOOSE surfaces and finishes for decontamination
  9. MINIMIZE the possibility of HVAC system failure
  10. DEFINE how to measure containment success

Following these principles, HDR consultants Jon Crane and Cyndi McCullough have written a white paper to help design teams and healthcare institutions develop appropriate operational and facility responses for both emergency room intake and patient care biocontainment units.

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