Safe & Secure: 4 Trends to Watch in Healthcare Doors and Hardware

By John Woestman | May/June 2023 Issue | MCD Magazine

Healthcare facilities are some of the most complex building design and construction environments. Doors and how they function are integral to effective and efficient healthcare facilities. Designers are incorporating trends in doors and door hardware to help healthcare facilities meet today’s and tomorrow’s needs. The following are four main trends to watch in healthcare doors and hardware, as seen by members of the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA):

Trend #1 – Increased importance of patient & staff safety

Safety of patients and staff is an ongoing trend with increasing importance in healthcare. Doors and door-locking systems play integral roles in controlling access to buildings and spaces, preventing abductions of infants and children, protecting patients from harming themselves, infection control, and fire and life safety.

Healthcare facilities are increasing the use of electronic access control systems to permit and prohibit access to buildings, to spaces within buildings, to confidential information, to pharmaceuticals, and to limited-access areas such as operating suites and isolation rooms.

In newborn and pediatric units, doors with electronic locking systems are ubiquitous and limit access to authorized persons while also preventing abductions. And, in most memory care and psychiatric units, doors with electronic locking systems help prevent patient wandering.

Most hospitals – unlike almost all other commercial buildings – require a defend-in-place strategy for life safety in the event of a fire. Doors, along with door hardware, serve critical life safety functions in helping to control the spread of fire and smoke. More and more of these fire-related and smoke-related doors also are critical for infection control.

Trend #2 – Infection control

For infection control, touchless or non-contact doors are increasingly desired (as are non-contact handwash faucets, soap dispensers, and hand sanitizer dispensers). Automatically opening and closing doors, swinging, or sliding, with non-contact waveplates are installed more frequently and in a wider range of interior applications. An additional feature of many touchless doors (and sanitary fixtures) is the anti-ligature benefits of no handles or levers.

Also, for infection control reasons, interior rooms are being designed with more sliding doors because of the significant reduction of air movement when sliding doors are opened and closed, compared to swinging doors. And, to reduce staff exposure, view panels are being installed in more patient room doors to facilitate patient monitoring without the need to open the door and enter the patient room.

Selecting door hardware with antimicrobial brass, bronze, copper-nickel or silver finishes is an option for improving infection control. Touched surfaces made of these uncoated materials continuously kill bacteria.

Trend #3 – Acoustic/noise reduction

Reducing unwanted noise, especially in patient care areas, is desirable for improving outcomes and patient satisfaction. And for the most sensitive patients, such as newborn infants, there’s a clear connection between a low-noise environment and patient outcomes.

Doors with durable and easy-to-clean seals and gaskets to help attenuate noise are increasingly desired, as is door hardware that operates at lower noise levels.

Trend #4 – Healthcare staff well-being

A trend in healthcare is an increase in buildings designed with exam and treatment rooms with two doors served by circulation space for patients separated from the behind-the-scenes corridors and collaboration spaces for staff.

The challenge of healthcare staff well-being reached a peak during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help prevent burnout, it became abundantly clear staff needs the ability to collaborate and recharge in work areas away from patients (i.e. “off-stage”). Separate circulation space allows staff to be “off-stage” and decompress when non “on-stage” with patients.

Thoughtful selection of doors, performance attributes, and door-locking systems are essential for healthcare. Designers of healthcare facilities have been quick to adapt to the changing landscape of design priorities. The door and door hardware industry are well positioned to meet the ever-changing needs of healthcare.

John Woestman is the director of codes and regulatory affairs at BHMA.

Editor’s Note: The following contributed to this article: Ralph Vasami (BHMA), Gene Jones (Allegion), Michael Tierney (BHMA), John Lozano (Allegion), and Kurt Roeper (ASSA ABLOY).

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Written by Anne Holden