Air QualityHospitals & Medical Facilities

Determining Specific Indoor Air Quality Goals in Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities for Optimum Patient Health Outcomes

By May 23, 2024 No Comments
20–23 minutes to read

Ensuring the health and safety of patients, visitors, and healthcare workers in hospitals and healthcare facilities is of paramount importance, making indoor air quality (IAQ) a critical focus area.

In this article, air quality specialists from Camfil, a global air filtration research, engineering, and manufacturing company that provides state-of-the-art medical-grade air filters to healthcare providers across the globe, explore how maintaining optimal IAQ levels contributes to minimizing infection risks, preventing healthcare-associated infections, and promoting a safe environment conducive to healing for all. The article also aims to introduce healthcare administrators and facility managers to the significance of IAQ, the challenges associated with managing air quality in healthcare settings, and effective strategies for achieving and maintaining IAQ goals that align with health and safety standards.

Air Quality in Hospitals: Why Does it Matter? 

Healthcare providers understand the importance of breathing clean air.  The air quality in hospitals and healthcare facilities significantly impacts patient health outcomes. Therefore, maintaining good indoor air quality (IAQ) is a crucial factor for any healthcare facility. It not only ensures the safety and well-being of patients but also contributes to the overall experience of their stay.

The Impact of Poor Indoor Air Quality on Patients

Poor IAQ in hospitals can have detrimental effects on both patients and healthcare workers. Patients with respiratory illnesses, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of indoor air pollution, as are children, elderly patients, and immunocompromised patients. Exposure to poor IAQ can lead to exacerbation of symptoms, prolonged hospital stays, and increased risk of infections.

Poor IAQ can also affect the recovery process of patients. Studies have shown that exposure to air pollutants, such as particulate matter and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can delay wound healing and increase the risk of post-operative complications.

Healthcare workers are also at risk of health issues due to poor IAQ in hospitals. They may experience respiratory problems, headaches, fatigue, and other symptoms related to exposure to indoor air pollutants. This can lead to decreased productivity and increased sick leave, affecting the overall functioning of the facility, as well as increasing the likelihood of inattentiveness and preventable mistakes. In most workplaces, these negative effects of poor indoor air quality on worker productivity and cognitive function mostly affect the company’s bottom line, but in hospitals and other healthcare settings, it could delay a patient’s recovery. 

Another important air quality consideration is the presence of airborne pathogens. Hospitals are high-risk environments for the transmission of infectious diseases, and poor IAQ can increase this risk even further. Pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi can spread through ventilation systems, posing a threat to patients with weakened immune systems. This can result in hospital-acquired infections, which not only prolong hospital stays but also increase healthcare costs and may put healthcare providers at risk for malpractice lawsuits.

To address these issues, it is crucial for hospitals to prioritize IAQ management. This includes regular maintenance of HVAC systems, proper ventilation design, and the use of air purifying technologies such as high-quality general ventilation filters and HEPA filters for critical areas. Implementing strict cleaning protocols and using non-toxic cleaning products can also significantly improve indoor air quality in healthcare settings.

Pollutants Affecting Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in Hospitals

Pollutants that compromise indoor air quality (IAQ) in hospitals include a variety of sources, both external and internal. External sources such as vehicle emissions (such as idling ambulances and exhaust from helicopters on helipads) and industrial pollution can infiltrate hospital environments, introducing particulate matter and hazardous chemicals. Internally, medical equipment, cleaning agents, and building materials can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), while medical procedures generate bioaerosols, including bacteria, viruses, and fungal spores. Managing these pollutants requires a multi-faceted approach, encompassing regular air quality assessments, the adoption of green cleaning practices, and ensuring that construction or renovation projects within the hospital use materials that emit low levels of VOCs. Addressing the IAQ challenges in hospitals not only protects the health of patients but also benefits healthcare workers and visitors, creating a safer and more pleasant environment for everyone.

Air pollutants can broadly be divided into two categories: particulate pollutants and molecular (or gaseous) pollutants. Each requires different types of air filters to effectively be addressed.

Learn more: How Air Filters Improve Indoor Air Quality in Hospitals and Clinics 

The Importance of Identifying Specific IAQ Goals for Hospitals

To ensure optimum patient health outcomes, it is essential for hospitals and healthcare facilities to set specific IAQ goals. These goals should be tailored to meet the unique needs of each facility and its patients.

These goals provide a tangible framework for identifying, evaluating, and addressing air quality issues effectively. By establishing clear benchmarks, facilities can prioritize actions and allocate resources more efficiently, ensuring that indoor air quality meets or exceeds recognized health and safety standards. Furthermore, specific air quality goals help in the implementation of proactive measures rather than reactive responses, leading to a sustained improvement in the healthcare setting’s environmental health. This is not just about compliance with regulations; it’s about taking a comprehensive approach to prevent healthcare-associated infections, enhancing patient care, and promoting a healthier workplace for healthcare professionals.

Some factors that may influence IAQ goals for hospitals include geographical location (including proximity to large roads and industrial processing facilities), building design and construction materials, type of hospital (e.g., acute care, long-term care), types of patients being treated (e.g., immunocompromised, respiratory conditions), and frequency of use or occupancy.

For example, a hospital located in an area with high levels of outdoor air pollution may prioritize reducing the infiltration of outdoor pollutants and implementing effective molecular filtration systems for air entering the building. In contrast, a hospital with a high number of immunocompromised patients may focus on strict control of ventilation and humidity levels  to prevent the growth and spread of harmful pathogens and use HEPA and ULPA filters to remove harmful pathogens from the air.

Additionally, IAQ goals should also consider potential sources of indoor air pollution in hospitals, such as cleaning products, medical equipment, building materials, and administrative processes such as printing and copying. Reducing the amount of air pollution generated inside the hospital is an often overlooked but still highly important piece of a holistic, effective plan for improving air quality.

How to Determine Air Quality Goals in a Hospital

  1. Consult an air quality expert to determine specific air quality problems. Conducting comprehensive indoor air quality assessments and monitoring is essential in identifying potential health hazards, risks, and pollutants. The results of these evaluations can then be used to set achievable goals that align with recognized standards and guidelines. It is crucial to work with an air quality expert with experience working with air quality in hospitals to understand not just the scope of the issues, but the best solutions to address specific pollutants, as well as how to prioritize areas of concern.
  2. Follow ASHRAE standards and recommendations for other professional organizations.  ASHRAE has published several standards specifically related to indoor air quality in healthcare facilities. These include Standard 170-2021, which sets minimum requirements for ventilation design; and Standard 62.1-2022, which establishes the minimum ventilation rates and other measures intended to provide acceptable indoor air quality. Additionally, other professional organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have their own recommendations that can be used as a reference when setting air quality goals in hospitals.
  3. Consider patient population and specific health conditions. Different patient populations may have varying sensitivities to different pollutants, so it is important to consider this when setting air quality goals in hospitals. For example, patients with respiratory conditions may be more susceptible to pollutants such as particulate matter and carbon monoxide, while immunocompromised patients may be at higher risk for fungal or bacterial growth. Additionally, certain health conditions may also require specific air quality measures, such as installing specialized filtration systems for patients with allergies or implementing stricter cleaning protocols for patients with weakened immune systems, as well as creating negatively pressurized isolation rooms to prevent highly contagious pathogens from spreading to other patients through the building’s ventilation system.
  4. Prioritize critical areas and concerns first. Not all indoor air quality issues require the same level of attention. By setting specific goals, hospitals and healthcare facilities can prioritize their efforts and resources toward addressing critical areas first. For example, operating rooms and intensive care units may require higher ventilation rates and stricter air quality standards compared to waiting rooms or administrative areas.

Implementing Air Quality Goals in Hospitals: # Tips for Better Hospital IAQ from Air Quality Specialists

Once specific air quality goals have been established, it is vital to develop a comprehensive plan for achieving them. This may involve implementing various strategies such as:

  1. Continued air quality monitoring. Regularly monitoring air quality is essential for measuring progress toward goals and determining whether or not solutions have been effective. Air quality monitoring will also help identify new problem areas as they develop to keep air quality goals aligned with the reality of the facility. This can be done through the use of indoor air quality sensors, as well as visual inspections of ventilation systems and other potential sources of pollutants.
  2. Utilizing medical-grade filtration systems. High-efficiency air filters can effectively remove harmful particles from the air, improving overall air quality. It is essential to choose the right filter type for the specific pollutants present in the facility: mechanical (HEPA, ULPA, and MERV-rated) filters for catching small particles like dust and pathogens, and activated carbon or other activated media filters for reducing molecular pollutants such as carbon dioxide and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). 
  3. Proper ventilation and circulation. A critical factor in maintaining good indoor air quality is proper ventilation and circulation. Air filters cannot be effective against air that is stagnant, because the process of removing pollutants from the air requires air to move through the filter. Hospitals should ensure that their HVAC systems are functioning correctly and regularly maintained to provide adequate airflow throughout the facility.
  4. Implementing source control measures. In addition to maintaining proper ventilation rates, healthcare facilities should also focus on reducing the number of pollutants entering the building. This can be done, in part, through source control measures such as regular cleaning and maintenance of HVAC systems, using non-toxic cleaning products, and ensuring proper storage and handling of chemicals.
  5. Regular cleaning and maintenance. Regularly cleaning and maintaining surfaces, carpets, and other areas can prevent the buildup of pollutants such as dust, mold, and bacteria. It is also essential to regularly clean and replace air filters in HVAC systems. The exact frequency of filter change will depend on the specific filter and the concentration of pollutants in the air. Learn more about determining the most effective filter change-out schedule here.
  6. Educate staff and patients on air quality management. To ensure the success of hospital air quality goals, it is important to involve all stakeholders in the process, including hospital staff and patients. Staff should be trained on proper infection control measures, proper use of cleaning products, and the importance of maintaining a clean and well-ventilated environment. Patients should also be educated on ways they can contribute to maintaining good air quality, such as not smoking and reporting any concerns about air quality to hospital staff.

Medical-Grade Air Filters for Better Hospital IAQ

Ensuring optimal air quality in hospitals and healthcare facilities is paramount for safeguarding patient health, promoting faster recovery, and preventing the spread of airborne diseases. High-quality indoor air plays a crucial role in creating a safe environment for patients, particularly those with compromised immune systems or respiratory conditions. Poor air quality can exacerbate existing health issues, introduce new health risks, and increase the transmission rate of infections. By prioritizing advanced ventilation systems, regular monitoring of air pollutants, and adherence to stringent air quality standards, healthcare facilities can significantly reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections and provide a healthier atmosphere for both patients and staff. This commitment to maintaining superior indoor air quality not only enhances patient outcomes but also underscores the facility’s dedication to providing high-quality care. 

Find the right hospital-grade air filters to address your facility’s specific concerns by consulting with a local Camfil air quality specialist.

About Camfil Clean Air Solutions

For more than half a century, Camfil has been helping people breathe cleaner air. As a leading manufacturer of premium clean air solutions, we provide commercial and industrial systems for air filtration and air pollution control that improve worker and equipment productivity, minimize energy use, and benefit human health and the environment. We firmly believe that the best solutions for our customers are the best solutions for our planet, too. That’s why every step of the way – from design to delivery and across the product life cycle – we consider the impact of what we do on people and the world around us. Through a fresh approach to problem-solving, innovative design, precise process control, and a strong customer focus we aim to conserve more, use less, and find better ways – so we can all breathe easier.

The Camfil Group is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, and has 30​ manufacturing sites, six R&D centers, local sales offices in 35+ countries, and about 5,600 employees and growing. We proudly serve and support customers in a wide variety of industries and communities across the world. To discover how Camfil USA can help you to protect people, processes, and the environment, visit us at 


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Lynne Laake 

Camfil USA Air Filters 

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