Rethinking Your Doors and Hardware

3 ways your patients, staff and visitors expect you to upgrade your facility now

The health and social crises of this past year have increased demand for enhanced safety, accessibility, compliance, and convenience. Healthcare environments in particular face unique challenges, as they must balance these requirements while providing a welcoming and healing environment for their patients, staff and visitors. With these expectations at the forefront of everyone’s mind, now is the time to rethink how you can enhance the safety, security, efficiency, and overall experience of your spaces by upgrading your doors and hardware.

Reducing Germ Transmission

Take a minute and think about how many door openings you walk through each day within your building, how many levers and knobs you use to open doors, and how many times you push on a door to enter or exit a space. Now multiply that number by how many nurses, environmental service workers, security officers, visitors, patients and others, encounter those same touchpoints.

How can you mitigate the spread of germs with some of the most frequently accessed touchpoints in a building? Consider upgrading to low-touch or touchless hardware to reduce the number of people handling levers, pulls, exit devices and other parts of the door opening. Low-touch mechanical door hardware offers an easy-to-install and cost effective option. With just the hook of a forearm or pull with a shoe, arm and foot pulls are a simple accessory that can be added to any new or pre-existing aluminum, metal or wood door.

Push/pull paddle trim enables hands-free movement with the push of a hip or pull of the arm and is a great option for patient rooms, restrooms and virtually any door. Another product ideal for restrooms, nursing rooms or quiet rooms is the status indicator lock. This allows you to see if the space is occupied and the door is locked before touching the handle.

For high-traffic areas like entrances, cross-corridors and restrooms, a wave-to-open switch paired with a low-energy door operator provides a completely hands-free experience. For environments where wheelchairs and walkers are common, adding a motion sensor will allow the door to remain open long enough for people to pass through.

In addition to creating a desire to reduce or eliminate touch points, the global health crisis has also emphasized the importance of thorough sanitization procedures for the most commonly touched areas of your healthcare facility. Door hardware, keypads and readers are among the most important surfaces that require frequent germ transmission prevention, cleaning and disinfection.

Adding Intelligent Access Control

Let’s take a tour of your healthcare facility. Visualize yourself at the perimeter of your property. Now enter your building and head towards your office or a meeting room space. How many door openings have you walked by and how many of them are considered general access, high security or even a lockdown area?

There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to controlling access. While access control is a major challenge that demands quality, code compliance, design, and functionality, there are an array of different technologies to meet your requirements and budget. Specialized locking solutions can be tailored to various security requirements through a wide range of technologies and devices. Innovative solutions like Intelligent Wi-Fi and real-time wireless make it easier and more economical than ever to extend access control to more doors and more applications.

It is your responsibility to keep not only the people within your healthcare facility safe and secure, but assets and data as well. Pharmaceutical distribution, storage cabinets, employee lockers, even server cabinets and their sensitive data are prone to theft. These small doorways can be protected with a new generation of cabinet locks that integrate seamlessly with to the building’s security management system, allowing access to be monitored and tracked for security and compliance.

Another option to consider for an easy and affordable upgrade is intelligent keys. Intelligent keys are an ideal way to enhance the security of existing hardware to include powerful scheduling and accountability. Simply replace the existing mechanical cylinder with an e-cylinder – no hard wiring or power supply required. Intelligent keys not only provide access control, but can also help achieve compliance and deliver data analytics, audits, and reporting.

Healthcare facilities can also benefit from increased visibility into the specific location of facility assets, such as equipment and beds, as well as clinicians and staff using real-time location systems. Using data-driven analytics generated from real-time location systems (RTLS), these systems optimize clinician accountability, patient throughput and asset management.

Designing the Physical Environment to Aid Healing

Gone are the days of purely clinical healthcare facilities as patients, staff and visitors expect warm and welcoming environments. According to the Center for Health Design, evidence-based design has proven that positive (or “healing”) patient environments can positively influence a patient’s sense of well-being and even reduce anxiety or pain. Studies have shown that a restorative environment will improve a healthcare organization’s clinical outcomes, economic performance, productivity, and patient and staff satisfaction.

So how can doors and hardware contribute to the healing environment? Sterile hallways and minimal patient rooms are now being replaced with purposefully designed facilities featuring elegant specialty doors with high-definition embossed panels, wood grain patterns, and stainless steel finishes. When coupled with coordinated hardware suites with door levers, pulls, doorstops, coat hooks, hinges, and trim, these openings create a holistic atmosphere where function meets form and beautiful doors and hardware can now deliver security and meet building requirements—without sacrificing design.

Studies have also shown that color can actually improve or impair our ability to focus, learn, behave, and heal within an architectural environment. Color improves visual memory and affects our sense of well-being and quality of life. Whether deployed on doors, frames or hardware, color can contribute to the built environment by helping us find our way and enhancing our experience in a space.

As an example, colored doors, frames and hardware can be deployed to aid wayfinding and navigation in hospitals and healthcare facilities to create visually distinctive “landmarks” and to emphasize navigable pathways. “Color-coding” can enhance navigation in ways that signage and other informational wayfinding elements cannot.

Optimizing occupant comfort goes beyond just an aesthetically pleasing door. In hospitals, excessive noise can make it difficult for patients to rest and is distracting for staff. Peace and quiet are hallmarks of a restorative environment. Sound Transmission Class (STC)-rated doorways on patient rooms block the noise that accompanies the hustle and bustle of a hospital hallway. Doorway assemblies that achieve high sound transmission-control ratings make it easier and more affordable than ever to implement STC measures.

Lastly, don’t overlook the benefits of daylighting. Many healthcare facilities are incorporating more glass features into patient rooms, recovery areas, recreational areas and work spaces in order to improve patient experience, reduce recovery time, and promote a healthier work environment for employees. The proper door openings can secure these spaces while maintaining the integrity of the glass design and aesthetics.

As you begin to rethink the aesthetics of your doors and hardware, the types of security and access control you need to protect people, assets, and data and how to further mitigate germ transmission – keep in mind your patients, staff and visitors. The knowledge and experience of your healthcare staff, taken together with patient survey data, can be used to help make a site-specific upgrade plan.

The opportunities to enhance the safety, security, efficiency, and overall experience of your spaces by upgrading your doors and hardware are endless and there are creative approaches and innovative solutions for all budgets and timelines.

This article originally appeared in the July / August 2021 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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