Measuring IAQ Is Crucial in Healthcare Facilities

Indoor air quality data can help prevent hospital-acquired infections.

By Jeff Wardon, Jr., Assistant Editor

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, the topic of indoor air quality (IAQ) has become much more prominent. IAQ has become especially important to healthcare facilities given that there are airborne illnesses. Without proper IAQ measures, illnesses can spread quickly throughout the facility and infect its inhabitants. 

However, IAQ cannot be measured by the naked eye. Most particulates are very small and unnoticeable without special tools. This is why technologies are put in place in healthcare facilities to measure IAQ.  

“IAQ technologies with a varying array of metrics that they monitor are essential in today’s healthcare facilities,” says Brian Estill, portfolio director of healthy buildings and sustainability at Johnson Controls. “Other devices, like airflow measuring stations, CO2 sensors, venturi air-valves and room pressure control and room pressure monitors can also play a key role in ensuring that an adequate amount of ventilation is being provided to the building as well as to ensure that air is moving in the right direction.” 

Unsurprisingly, there are many disparate technologies that work to monitor and control the IAQ of a healthcare facility. However, Estill adds that these technologies can be connected to each other through Building Automation Systems (BAS) or cloud-based platforms allowing healthcare facilities to integrate the IAQ technologies together into a greater system for monitoring and controlling air quality.  

These technologies can also collect data through its monitoring and alert facilities management about the current IAQ conditions. The data is displayed on a dashboard and once a facility manager reviews it, actions regarding the IAQ can be taken. 

“Imagine you are driving a car. You need the dashboard to know the health status of the car and what needs to change,” says Serene Al-Momen, chief executive officer at Attune. “Indoor air quality monitoring is creating that type of dashboard for the facilities team to know what issue needs to be addressed so that they could do something about it.”  

Additionally, IAQ is also known to affect patient outcomes. This is due to poorer IAQ being associated with airborne pathogens that could lead to a healthcare-associated infection. With systems monitoring IAQ put in place, that factor influencing patient outcomes can potentially be controlled.  

However, IAQ data can be used for much more. According to Estill, the following are benefits of using IAQ data: 

  • Areas with poor IAQ can be identified and subsequently mitigated with measures such as air purification or increased ventilation. 
  • IAQ data can be used to monitor the effectiveness of the mitigations mentioned above. This can then be used to mark areas in need of improvement. 
  • IAQ data helps to identify high-risk areas of infection. With that, those areas of concern can then be addressed. 
  • Patients with respiratory conditions are at risk when exposed to poor air quality. IAQ data can be used to protect these patients and indicate a better room to move them to. 
  • IAQ data can be used to modify the temperature, humidity and ventilation to improve patient comfort, thus improving patient satisfaction scores and helping in recovery. 

All in all, IAQ monitoring technologies can be utilized to improve and benefit healthcare facilities in several ways. While most of these technologies appear simple on the surface, they work in complex systems to provide crucial monitoring and controls for relatively air quality-sensitive facilities with a focus on improving patient outcomes. 

Jeff Wardon, Jr. is the assistant editor for the facilities market.  

July 20, 2023

Topic Area: HVAC , Infection Control , Information Technology

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