Hospital Unveils Technologies for Next Generation Emergency Room

In efforts to boost its disaster preparedness program, improve patient care and benefit the health and safety of hospital staff, Washington D.C.-based Washington Hospital Center revealed new technologies and designs for its emergency department, with a focus on infection control and the ability to handle large groups of new patients.

Unveiled at a press briefing Jan. 9, the “Bridge to ER One” will test innovations that include negative pressure isolation rooms to prevent the spread of infectious bacteria; walls made of Corian material to provide a cleaner environment; surfaces coated with antimicrobial material to reduce infections; and specifically designed ventilation and disinfection systems to monitor and clean circulating air.

The testing phase of the project will help Washington Hospital Center come one step closer in completing its vision to build ER One, which will be an all-risks-ready emergency care facility.

According to Dr. Mark Smith, MD, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Washington Hospital Center and director of the ER One Institute, these steps enable the hospital to be better prepared to handle a mass casualty situation such as a biological attack, radiation explosion or a natural pandemic.

“This is a pivotal project in the field of emergency medicine,” Dr. Smith told reporters, adding that Washington Hospital Center is the first facility to incorporate many of these new features.

Although the project aims to improve emergency preparedness, Smith noted the new concepts will be of great value for day-to-day patient care. “It’s more practical to invest in technology that will work on a daily basis than just during a high consequence event,” he said.

Improvements to Boost Health Care Worker Safety

The project also will benefit hospital workers. According to Smith, many of the features of ER One will prevent employees from getting sick should there be a massive health threat.

Certain elements of the emergency care setting design were implemented with the comfort of the hospital staff in mind, Ella Dade, RN and special projects director of Washington Hospital Center’s emergency department told

A newly designed nursing station placed in the center of the emergency room will not only improve work flow, but also create ergonomically correct solutions to minimize the chance of a nurse incurring back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders. Desks that adjust to a health worker’s height, as well as ergonomic stools that include nesting pads so nurses can rest their feet, are just some of the components of the newly designed station.

Because the nursing industry ranks among the highest in terms of injuries and illnesses, and as a result incurs high rates of absenteeism and lost workdays, Dade emphasized the importance of making sure the staff is as safe and comfortable as possible.

Hospital officials will monitor staff and patient response to the new environment and equipment.

ER One was conceived and developed by a team lead by Smith in 1999, and the project gained greater urgency following 9/11 and the 2001 anthrax attacks. Washington Hospital Center has so far spent $4.5 million to launch Project ER One, and currently seeks $75 million in federal funding to help build an estimated $300 million facility.

Because Washington, D.C. is a likely target for terrorist attacks, Smith explained it is important for the District to have a full ER One facility that can “handle a huge influx of patients from an emergency situation and that would serve as a model for the rest of the country.”

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