Znak Politechniki Warszawskiej

Scientists from the Warsaw University of Technology Want to Improve Conditions of Convalescence in Polish Hospitals

The team, led by the Warsaw University of Technology Associate Professor Anna Bogdan, PhD (Eng) from the Faculty of Building Services, Hydro and Environmental Engineering, is conducting a project aimed at making hospitalized patients recover in rooms with better air conditioning and ventilation.

Prof. Bogdan explains that human thermal perception is influenced by parameters of thermal environment (i.e. environmental conditions), a person’s activity level (i.e. how much heat is generated) and their clothing. “All internal environment standards are made for healthy people, there are no official guidelines concerning ill people”, explains the researcher. “Patients are hospitalized, take medicine, suffer. We want to improve such people’s comfort with small steps”.

Preparations

The project titled “Improving Conditions of Internal Environment for Convalescence of Patients in Polish Hospitals” is financed by Halton Foundation Inc., provider of grants for implementation projects that solve specific issues related to ventilation and air conditioning. Notably, only one application is selected per year. Among the 2015 submissions, the Foundation decided to support Prof. Bogdan’s idea.

The project is designed for three stages (each stage lasts one year). Financial support was granted for the first stage, which is currently drawing to an end. After the evaluation, the Foundation will decide whether to continue providing support.

The first stage consists in assessing internal environment conditions in hospital sickrooms. “We prepared a list of all state hospitals in Poland; there are over 300 of them”, explains Prof. Bogdan. “Dean of our Faculty, Prof. Krzysztof Wojdyga, sent letters of invitation to participate in the project and conduct research. Over 60 per cent of hospitals agreed”.

The University’s scientists did not research all of them. “We have selected various facilities: larger and smaller, from different provinces, so as to have a representative sample”, says Prof. Bogdan. “Before commencing works, we talked with hospital representatives in Warsaw. We discussed how to organize the research, investigated opportunities for obtaining information that interested us, and asked whether our questionnaire would be understandable to patients. We also selected wards that would be analysed. We didn’t consider wards for children, expectant mothers or patients that are unable to communicate”.

Too Hot, Too Cold – Patients’ Problems

The researchers studied the physical environment of hospital rooms, i.e. air temperature, its velocity and humidity, and radiant temperature. They also talked with patients and staff. The questionnaire for people hospitalized within the last 5 years, or who are currently being hospitalized, is still available at the project’s website. Data gathered in this way will be complemented by information obtained by our scientists in the field.

“Since the launch of the project in March, we have examined over 20 hospitals”, says the project leader, Prof. Bogdan. “It quickly turned out that conditions in sickrooms are similar throughout the entire Poland”.

Key thermal environment issues experienced by hospitals depend on the season. In summer, excessive sunlight is troubling. There are often very large windows in patient rooms, which makes them prone to rapid heating. Blinds and shutters are not helpful. In fact, they are often missing altogether. The only solution is to open the windows, but such natural ventilation introduces other problems: letting in hot air and heating up the room further.

The issue in winter is overheating. People with beds closer to windows complain about drafts or overheating due to the close proximity of radiators, while people in beds placed further away complain about stuffiness.

Another inconvenience, regardless of season and thermal environment conditions, are hospital odours. “Often there are no fans in bathrooms situated near sickrooms, or they are not turned on, so the odours remain”, says Prof. Bogdan. “Ointments, medicine or medical procedures have their specific odours as well. The staff is used to them and doesn’t smell them, but patients are bothered by them”.

The researcher points out that these are the problems noticed by anyone who has ever been in a hospital. However, after visits in specific facilities and talks, these assumptions are now properly documented.

Assistance and Cooperation

Conducting this type of research would not be possible without the help of hospital management and staff. Prof. Bogdan emphasizes that, while working, her team was met with huge openness and desire for cooperation. “It was obvious that these people wanted to investigate sickroom conditions and patients’ feelings”, says Prof. Bogdan. “The staff introduced us to patients and explained what we do. Employees have also provided us with much precious information”.

It should be emphasized that the team led by Prof. Bogdan is small. Besides herself, it is composed of two young researchers: Piotr Uścinowicz – doctoral student at the WUT’s Faculty of Building Services, Hydro and Environmental Engineering, and Patrycja Kociszewska, currently preparing her Master’s thesis there.

Minor Changes, Major Significance

The result of the first stage of the project will be a diagnosis of sickroom conditions. It is intended for hospitals. “Plans for the second stage include a case study”, says Prof. Bogdan. “We want to propose some changes in one of the hospitals, which are predominantly low cost. They are often small things that could greatly improve patients’ living conditions; for example, proper arrangement of shutters. Then we will investigate how these changes influence patients”.

During the third stage, the scientists from the Warsaw University of Technology intend to establish an advisory platform. “We definitely want it to take advantage of the diagnosis prepared during the first stage”, notes Prof. Bogdan. “We intend to share the knowledge of how to react to common problems and what solutions to apply”.

The platform is intended for hospitals and to be useful to hospitals. But this is not its only goal. “We also want ventilation and air conditioning companies to know what issues are prevalent in hospitals”, says Prof. Bogdan. “Perhaps it will allow them to adjust their products to hospitals’ needs”.

“It’s a targeted implementation project that’s very close to people’s hearts”, says the researcher. “We treat it as a kind of a mission; we hope that we will help a specific group of people”.

You can visit the project’s website right now: http://salachorych.is.pw.edu.pl/index.php/english/

 

Agnieszka Kapela

Office for Promotion and Information