Physician Practice

Waiting room safety: Infection, furniture, and power outlets

Medical Environment Update, June 21, 2020

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by Brian Ward

A patient walks into your waiting room with a cough, a mild fever, and shortness of breath. Your waiting room is crowded, so she sits down next to other visitors. She left her phone in the car, so she flips through a magazine and plays with the TV remote. Her name is called, and someone takes her seat as soon as she stands. By the time you finish lecturing your patient about how she should have called ahead with these symptoms, several others have come and gone from your waiting room out into the community.

That patient had the flu. But she could have just as easily had any number of infections, from the common cold to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

Cleaning and keeping a healthcare waiting room safe for patients is a difficult task, says Jennifer Cowel, RN, MHS, a former Joint Commission executive and CEO of Patton Healthcare Consulting. Many elements need to be considered: furniture, electrical outlets, sanitizer dispensers, toys, and high-touch objects. And unlike patient rooms, there’s no turnover time between people where the space can be cleaned or checked.
“Waiting rooms are challenging because you can't control who is in there or what they touch,” she says. “You can have children, adults, or seniors. We are to clean high-touch surfaces, [and] if you have children in the room, every surface could be high touch!”

This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe to Medical Environment Update.

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