Study Shows Air Purification Reduces Healthcare Acquired Infections

Indoor air quality is heavily affected by both HVAC systems and filtration.

By Jeff Wardon, Jr., Assistant Editor

HVAC systems are a key part of any healthcare facility’s infrastructure. This is especially true for long-term care facilities such as senior care and rehabilitation. In addition, they also play a key role in indoor air quality (IAQ), which is concerned with the various particulates and compounds that float around in the air. Not all of them are necessarily harmful, though some can be problematic and create complications for more vulnerable patients or residents. This is why things like HEPA filters are placed into the ventilation to help weed out harmful airborne bacteria, fungi, viruses or just general pollutants. 

It does beg the question, though, are filters alone efficient enough at keeping these airborne threats at bay? A recent study published in “The Journals of Gerontology” provides some insight. 

This study set out to determine the effects an advanced air purification technology (AAPT) could have on the environment and health of long-term care facilities and their residents. The reasoning for this study was due to these facilities’ residents being more vulnerable to healthcare associated infections (HAIs), which many happen to be airborne. To address this concern, an AAPT was designed to remediate airborne pathogens and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The AAPT was then retrofitted to a long-term care facility’s HVAC system.  

The study analyzed two separate floors: one with both the AAPT and a HEPA filter and then another floor with just a HEPA filter. Overall, there was a 98.83 percent reduction in airborne pathogens, an 89.88 percent reduction in VOCs and a 39.6 percent reduction in HAIs. The study concluded that the AAPT led to a noticeable reduction in HAIs by removing pathogens. 

With these results, one could argue the need for a more robust system for pathogen and VOC filtration in long-term care facilities. It is not to say HEPA filters do not work, as they do. This AAPT would be an additional layer of protection against these intrusive and harmful particulates.  

An example of how a healthcare associated infection can spread quickly and affect many is a recent COVID-19 outbreak at Windsor Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation. The outbreak started in late February and ended up infecting over 90 residents and staff, leaving five dead. However, HAIs are a concern not only for long-term care facilities, but hospitals and other healthcare facilities as well.  

HVAC systems are known to play a big role in both patient comfort and recovery. Adding technology like the AAPT used in the study can help mitigate potential HAI spread and even remove pathogens from the facility, which in turn would improve IAQ. All in all, the study shows how a more comprehensive approach to HVAC systems and specifically filtration can affect a healthcare facility’s overall environment. 

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

May 22, 2023

Topic Area: HVAC , Infection Control

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