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Healthcare Architecture during Pandemics

The terrifying onslaught of COVID-19 has already had a major impact on the global healthcare system, and each one of us must discover our role as virus-fighting agents. With each passing day, we learn about essential measures such as the importance of social distancing, improved hygiene, and understanding of our impact on society as a whole, but there are still other opportunities left untouched.

Healthcare architects are key components at this juncture when all hospital structures need to increase their care capacity abruptly. This will demand the intelligent application of several strategies, some of which are discussed below.

- Strategic management – Hospital structures are extremely resistant to quick changes due to their high degree of complexity. Therefore, at this time, strategic management will be essential in implementing any plan efficiently and effectively.

- Identification of unused areas – Unused areas can be quickly and immediately occupied; therefore, they are considered the main starting point.

- Identification of flexible areas – Flexible areas will probably be used for other functions, such as meetings, administration, and exams, requiring relocations and contingency plans, but will be essential for the expansion of care capacity.

- Identification of external areas – All external areas can be evaluated as areas of potential expansion through use adaptation and use of quick installation in temporary structures.

- Identification of inactive hospital structures – If the evaluation of all growth possibilities within a built and existing area in the complex are not sufficient to meet demand, it will be necessary to investigate other buildings that can offer increased care capacity. Inactive hospital structures, when available, can be efficient solutions.

- Identification of non-hospital structures – The use of buildings that have not been originally planned for hospital use is an alternative to be considered in many plans. Structures such as schools and universities, which are not occupied given the current scenario, should also be evaluated.

- Partnerships – creative partnerships can be the answer to several problems we will still face. The understanding of urgency and community brought about by this new reality will facilitate the implementation of innovative solutions.

- Technology – This is a major weapon we currently have, which we have not fully deployed. Cases that do not require hospitalization, but care, will take advantage of tools such as Remote Medicine and Home Care.

Great opportunities also emerge during a crisis. New chances to learn, reinvent, improve, and above all, innovate. Topics that have been discussed for a long time, such as the importance of flexibility in built hospital environments, may become essential items in upcoming planning sessions. Several lessons must be learned, and each one of us plays a fundamental role in this battle. Let’s do this together!



Bruna Monzillo is a Strategic Planning Consultant and Architect, with experience in large scale projects and master plans. With a specialty in Hospital Architecture and Planning, she holds an MBA in Health Management, EDAC accreditation by the Center for Health Design, LEED AP BD+C, and DGNB Consultant accreditations. She works as the Strategy Manager at Albert Kahn Associates. She focuses on research and innovation, with experience in Restorative Architecture.

This article has been translated from its original publication in Saúde Business, Informa Markets on March 23, 2020.

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