Humidity monitoring can help keep hospital patients healthy
Friday, Apr 5th 2013

Healthcare providers have used temperature and humidity monitoring equipment for years to make sure their patient care tools and critical infrastructure remains in top shape at all times. Increasingly, environment control systems are necessary to make sure patients and staff stay healthy as well.

Although the purpose of a hospital is to treat patients and cure diseases, too often those seeking care end up falling ill as a result of their medical care. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that for every 200 patients that enter a hospital, 9 of them will fall ill during their time at the facility. As a result of these hospital-acquired infections, medical care facilities in the United States spend between $28.4 billion and $45 billion in additional related treatment costs every year.

"As a physician myself, I know we all entered medical school with one idea in mind - to save lives," Denise Cardo, Director of the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the CDC, said in a video address. "Having a patient get a healthcare-associated infection in the course of their treatment is devastating and can have tragic outcomes. Fortunately, we know how to prevent these infections."

Humidity monitoring, air quality and HAI avoidance
Although there are many steps a medical care facility can take to reduce the chance that a patient falls ill for any reason, one of the top ways that not all treatment centers may have considered is through humidity monitoring.

According to the CDC, lung-related infections are one of the top HAIs. Although lung infections can have numerous causes, an excess of mold and other contaminants in the air is one of the prime causes of respiratory illness in indoor environments. For example, Triple Pundit reported that the asthma symptoms of 15 million Americans are triggered by poor air quality. In hospital settings that breed medicine-resistant superbugs and in which patient immune systems may already be compromised, the potential problem is exponentially greater.

Fortunately, this problem is relatively easy to address with proper humidity monitoring. Mold, bacteria and fungi responsible for causing many lung-related medical episodes thrive when the air is especially moist. However, buildings operators should be sure that moisture levels do not drop too much, as overly dry air can aggravate mucus membranes and damage sinuses, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. To stay in a comfortable space between these two poles, managers can use humidity monitoring to ensure ideal air moisture levels at all times

Part of the process of maintaining ideal air moisture levels involves the use of temperature monitoring equipment as well. Triple Pundit reported that standard air conditioning units are vital in removing contaminants from the air and making sure the circulation in a building is appropriately encouraging ideal indoor conditions.

"Maintaining good indoor air quality requires attention to the building's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system; the design and layout of the space; and pollutant source management," the EPA said. "HVAC systems include all of the equipment used to ventilate, heat, and cool the building; to move the air around the building (ductwork); and to filter and clean the air. These systems can have a significant impact on how pollutants are distributed and removed. HVAC systems can even act as sources of pollutants in some cases, such as when ventilation air filters become contaminated with dirt and/or moisture and when microbial growth results from stagnant water in drip pans or from uncontrolled moisture inside of air ducts."

Having a quality temperature and humidity monitoring system will likely not solve all of the problems hospitals face in keeping patients healthy and limiting the number of HAIs. However, by using monitors to accurately keep track of internal conditions at all times, facilities managers and healthcare providers can dramatically decrease the likelihood of a person having significant respiratory problems while receiving medical care.