The waiting room of a medical clinic or urgent care facility sees a lot of foot traffic on a given day. These crowded spaces can become hotbeds for the transmission of serious diseases. While a lot of conscientious people do their best to wear masks and use hand sanitizer, the chances are good that there is still a significant pathogenic load deposited throughout your waiting room daily.
For patient treatment areas, clinical staff and physicians can use industry best practices to ensure any dangerous microbes from the first patient, aren’t transferred to the next. Though this becomes much harder, if not impossible when it comes to the revolving door of patients who sporadically move in and out of your waiting room.
Yet, learning and keeping a healthcare waiting room safe and reasonably sanitized is absolutely critical for preventing the transmission of communicable diseases. Patients need to see and feel that everything is being done to protect them from cross-contamination.
Of course, many elements and surfaces need to be considered. This includes:
- High touch surfaces
- Waiting room furniture
- Electrical outlets
- Hand sanitizer dispensers
- Children’s toys
- Clipboards & writing utensils
- The waiting room bathroom
- Reception desk
Compounding this is the fact that Accrediting Organizations (AO) don’t have any specific standards when it comes to waiting room infection control. However, there are still some critical areas of concern where you could face some serious liability issues.
Tackling these issues proactively is a good first step toward improving waiting room safety and sanitation.
Exposed Electrical Outlets
A lot of waiting rooms don’t have protective covers over the electrical outlets. Yet there are often small children present. All it takes is one inattentive moment and a child could shock themselves or worse! The cheapest fix is simply to insert little plastic caps over them so kids can’t jam things into the outlets.
Germs on Toys
A lot of medical waiting rooms have toys for children to play with, even if they aren’t offering pediatric services. Young children play with these toys while the parents carefully fill out paperwork and wait for their names to be called.
Kids don’t have the same concepts of cleanliness and personal safety that older children and adults do. They tend to mishandle toys, get messy, transfer germs to them, and then the next child inevitably puts the toy in their mouth. Germs can then move to everything that a child touches, which the next adult touches.
Unfortunately, when your waiting room is crowded, it also means that your staff are at their max, and don’t have a lot of time to stop and meticulously disinfect toys every 10 minutes. While there is no perfect solution, having batches of clean toys in toy bins that you can rotate in and out every 30 to 60 minutes can reduce the pathogenic load on the toys as well as the rest of the waiting room.
Furniture & Soft Surfaces
Waiting room furniture sees a lot of use and abuse. Vinyl and other water-resistant surfaces are easy enough to wipe down at slow times. Then your staff can also wipe down wood or metal armrests and other hard furniture surfaces.
The problem comes with upholstered furniture and vinyl seating that’s cracked. These soft surfaces can potentially trap germs, grime, and other pathogens. While there’s very little you can do in the middle of a busy day, you can still schedule a deep cleaning for soft surfaces at night or other off-times. This will at least prevent the pathogenic transfer from one day to the next.
When you next get a chance in your quarterly or annual budget, consider replacing soft surface waiting room furniture with water-resistant vinyl or a similar material. This will make it easy to quickly disinfect the seating even during busy times.
Provide Hand Sanitizer & Disposable Masks in Multiple Locations
These days, it’s not enough to simply have a hand sanitizer station near the main entryway of your waiting room. You need to have multiple hand sanitizer stations strategically positioned throughout the room, each should come with a large box of disposable medical masks. Then include signage that strongly encourages people to use them if they are feeling sick.
By dispersing them throughout the room, you not only encourage their use. You also keep sick individuals from congregating in one single place at the same time.
Create Seating Pods
If you have a large, open waiting room and you want to make a strategic decision on how many patients you can see in a given span of time, you might want to create more space between various areas by creating seating pods or clusters.
The chairs can be positioned facing out with more than 6 feet between each pod. This reduces the risk of people casting respiratory droplets at each other in a confined space of less than 6 feet.
Then you can section off one or more pods at a time, disinfecting them throughout the day. This reduces the pathogenic load left by previous patients. You can then rotate which pods are sectioned off for disinfecting during low-traffic times such as the lunch hour. This lets you actively disinfect multiple seating pods throughout a given day.
Use The Correct Cleaning Products
The CDC recommends using a cleaner EPA-approved for emerging viral pathogens, they maintain an active list of recommended cleaning products on their website. They also recommend that all cleaning personnel wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and dispose of the gloves after each cleaning. Afterward, cleaning personnel needs to clean their hands immediately after the gloves are removed.
The Benefits of a Third Party Cleaning Company
When your clinical waiting room is crowded or nearing capacity, you likely don’t have time to repurpose your staff for cleaning and disinfecting in common areas. That’s why a lot of medical clinics have turned to hiring a professional cleaning companies like Building Services Inc.
We can dedicate a team of sanitation engineers or a day porter to maintain your waiting room and disinfect all critical areas. This includes the waiting room itself, and waiting room items like toys and furniture. We can also clean and maintain your bathrooms while topping up all hand sanitizer stations and reloading disposable masks.