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Since hospitals and laboratories are prone to health-related infections, preserving indoor air quality becomes increasingly important. Here, we will explore IoT-powered air quality monitoring solutions and their role in maintaining IAQ (indoor air quality) in healthcare organizations and laboratories.
What is Indoor Air Quality and Why is it Important to Preserve it?
Indoor Air Quality or IAQ refers to the air conditions within and around a building or structure that can affect the health and comfort of the occupants.
With people spending almost 90% of their time indoors, maintaining IAQ becomes essential to mitigate adverse health impacts.
As medical practitioners, para-medical staff, and patients spend long hours on the premises, they are more vulnerable to healthcare-associated infections. Unhealthy IAQ affects the staff’s productivity and the patient’s ability to heal.
Since most of the occupants in a healthcare facility are patients, they are more likely to have compromised immune systems. This makes them even more vulnerable to various airborne infections. In such an environment, having robust IAQ monitoring and management becomes extremely significant.
What are the Causes of Poor Indoor Air Quality in Healthcare Institutions?
Numerous sources can deteriorate the air quality within healthcare institutions, some of which are:
- Old and outdated equipment, such as ventilators and HVAC systems. This results in poor air circulation and can introduce contaminated outdoor air.
- Ongoing renovation projects within the premises can ruin the air quality as they can introduce dust particles and fungal spores.
- Chemical particles are released from volatile organic compounds (VOC), disinfectants, chemicals stored in laboratories, and sterilizing substances.
- Airborne bacteria, viruses, and mold can adversely impact air conditions.
- Moisture and mold formation can also contaminate the air quality.
Health Hazards due to Inadequate Indoor Air Quality
Though these facilities are cleaned and sterilized frequently, medical centers and laboratories are the biggest sources of pathogenic bacteria leading to hospital-acquired infections.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 98,000 people die due to hospital-acquired infections. Most of these infections and deaths have been attributed to bad indoor air quality.
Apart from HAI (hospital-acquired infections), poor IAQ would cause health issues such as headaches, fatigue, and irritation of the eyes among healthcare professionals.
Here are some of the common health problems that might affect professionals:
- Respiratory illnesses such as asthma and allergic reactions
- Complications related to lungs
- Aggravated heart conditions
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Skin illnesses scratchy
Navigating the Complexities and Challenges of Unhealthy Indoor Air Quality
Like other environmental health parameters, IAQ requires regular monitoring to determine the potential risks and to keep indoor air contamination in check.
However, monitoring air quality parameters is complex and challenging. Let us see how below-par IAQ can affect the patient’s health, staff’s productivity, and medical equipment:
Increased Health Risks for Patients, Staff, and Visitors
The COVID-19 pandemic taught us the importance of maintaining and regulating IAQ to limit the spread of infections. Inferior IAQ in healthcare facilities is a major contributor to hospital-acquired infections and presents serious hazards to the physical well-being of patients and staff.
Hospitals are closed spaces, hence fall in high-risk areas. This makes it very important to maintain proper IAQ to lower the health risks for staff members and patients.
Several studies have shown that an average of 10% of hospital-acquired infections are spread through airborne transmission due to unhealthy IAQ.
Apart from hospital-acquired infections, extended exposure to substandard IAQ can lead to chronic health conditions such as allergic reactions or aggravated asthmatic episodes.
Affects the Quality of Medicines, Vaccines, and Surgical Equipment
Inappropriate temperature and humidity play a part in degenerating the IAQ. It can trigger various bacterial, fungal, and viral infections and pose serious health implications.
Besides, high humidity can deteriorate the surgical equipment, medicines, and chemicals stored in the laboratories.
Many sensitive medicines and surgical devices require protection against toxic gases. Long exposures cause corrosion and micro-corrosion-related damages.
Moreover, hospitals have a large inventory of some temperature-sensitive drugs and vaccines. Storing medicines/vaccines in a clean and dry environment becomes crucial to prevent them from going bad.
IAQ for Regulatory Compliance
Right from bacterial growth to the potential leakage of bio radiation, hospitals or laboratories are susceptible to indoor air contamination. Therefore, preserving IAQ in a healthcare unit becomes the utmost priority. To address this, several agencies have issued regulatory compliance for monitoring IAQ.
When a healthcare unit or laboratories have inadequate indoor air monitoring and management solutions, they fail to comply with these regulatory bodies.
Such non-compliance can attract heavy fines and even legal suits (in case of any hospital-acquired infection-related deaths or complications). This creates a huge burden on the finances and thus extends cost overheads.
Potential Outbreak of Diseases and Infections
Bad indoor air quality provides a breeding ground for various harmful bacteria and viruses to thrive. Not monitoring air quality can increase the potential risk of disease outbreaks.
According to a report published in The Mirror, around 14,000 people died after contracting hospital-acquired airborne COVID infection.
Such incidences make it absolutely necessary to install a smart air quality monitoring system to maintain IAQ and prevent disease outbreaks.
Negatively Impacts Staff Productivity
Hospital air quality isn’t just about posing health hazards; it can have an adverse impact on staff productivity.
Various studies have shown that improved indoor air quality can significantly reduce the chances of acute respiratory illnesses. With lesser cases of AIRs and other diseases, the incidences of absenteeism decrease considerably.
Moreover, better indoor air quality improves the mental alertness of the staff, making them more productive.
Air Quality Monitoring Made Easy With IoT-Enabled Solutions
Maintaining air quality in hospitals can be complex, but monitoring IAQ is not! Advanced IoT-enabled solutions help healthcare units such as hospitals and laboratories meet air quality standards.
IoT-powered devices can be installed at various strategic locations to measure real-time air quality parameters such as temperature, humidity, dust particles, CO2, CO, VOCs, and other pollutants.
This data is sent to a centralized hub where a different machine learning algorithm analyzes the data to restore healthy IAQ.
IoT-enabled Solutions for Smart Air Quality Monitoring and Its Long Term Business Benefits
Remote and Real-Time Monitoring of Air Quality in Hospitals
In closed spaces like laboratories, nursing homes, or hospitals, installing advanced sensors can detect the presence of air pollutants and other particulate matter.
Any variation in standard parameters will trigger a notification across the maintenance team. Equipped with this data, the healthcare authorities can monitor the air quality, evaluate the situation and take preventive steps from a remote location.
This ensures improved indoor air quality within the premises and lowers the chances of acute respiratory illnesses and other health hazards. This automatically enhances staff productivity and reduces hospital-acquired infection.
Advanced Live Heat Mapping and Gas Detection System
Healthcare units, especially laboratories, have sensitive chemicals. When these chemicals come in contact with certain air pollutants, they can cause reactions, releasing toxic gases such as CO2, CO, and Nitrous oxide. This presents serious threats to the occupants - staff, medical practitioners, and patients.
With IoT-enabled heat mapping and gas detection systems, hospital authorities can easily identify the presence of any toxic gases. They can take necessary action to avert catastrophic gas leakage.
Additionally, air quality monitoring systems help hospitals to comply with industrial standards and ensure staff safety.
Predictive Analysis Through AI and Machine Learning
A data-driven predictive analysis is one of the most efficient and smart air quality monitoring solutions. Whether it is monitoring tiny amounts of particulate matter or harmful viruses in the ambient air, IoT-enabled systems create comprehensive predictive models.
Predictive analysis models use AI and machine learning algorithms to process historical and real-time data.
This allows the technicians to detect changes in air quality parameters and find ways to fix them before things go down the spiral.
Dashboards for Customized Air Quality Monitoring Report
Centralized dashboards are one of the most prominent features of IoT-enabled air quality monitoring. These dashboards act as a consolidated hub for legacy and new IoT devices enabling remote monitoring and management of air quality from a remote location.
In addition, dashboards process real-time data to offer valuable and customized insights into various air quality parameters.
Quick Alerts and Notification
IoT air quality monitoring solutions are configured with multiple real-time alert systems. These can trigger alarms about deteriorating air quality parameters based on pre-defined ranges. If the air quality index fall beyond these thresholds, alerts are sent through different media such as push notification, SMS, emails, or in-app messages.
This enables organizations to take preemptive steps and fix the problem, thus saving maintenance costs and ensuring world-class medical services to patients.
Advanced IoT solutions enable healthcare units to monitor and manage indoor air quality to ensure better diagnostic services.
Talk to Intuthings to find out more about customized air quality monitoring solutions for your healthcare facility.