The human element of automatic doors for healthcare
Blog 13, September 2022
The automatic door industry has a long tradition of working with customers to develop new technologies that solve emerging issues. The healthcare sector, in particular, has benefitted from this relationship with a host of innovations including touchless wave plates, telescoping doors for narrow corridors, ICU doors with electronic privacy glass, secure medication room doors, and more.
What sometimes gets lost, though, is the support beyond the product that our industry provides. We can all probably do a better job of explaining to facility managers and architects the total package they’re getting when collaborating with the automatic door industry.
Take a product that, at face value, seems among our simplest: the automatic swing door. When you look closer, you can see the demands placed on this seemingly basic device in a medical setting.
In medical facilities, heavy-duty swing doors are often found in corridors. These doors serve multiple purposes: they must open and close against negative and positive pressure, they must activate with a wave plate, and they must tie into the fire alarm and have corresponding latch capability (to keep fire from spreading). These are contradictory functions.
Achieving this requires dealing with complex hardware. It’s about more than just manufacturers developing new products (which they do, and it’s impressive). It’s also about the people out in the field that are installing them. Think of them as system integration experts.
Their level of expertise and skill often goes unheralded, even though our technicians work very closely with hospital customers. They have to. It’s vital that they understand what the customer is trying to accomplish so they can successfully integrate the door into the customer’s security programs and hardware.
Responding to customer need requires developing products to achieve all directives – but it requires thinking beyond the door’s own operator. The door must tie into other systems, including the facility’s access control system and its fire alarm. The door needs to latch in the event of fire, but also be outfitted with a panic device so people can get out. But then it must automatically close again to continue containing the fire. Not to mention it must do all this while being below manual push forces to comply with handicap accessibility mandates.
Accomplishing this wide set of criteria requires people who understand automatic door standards and building codes, and who can recognize when a door is operating safely (and when it isn’t). The constituencies we serve can always use a reminder that the solutions we provide extend beyond product. It’s the skill and creativity of the people in our industry that truly power innovation. That includes the men and women in the field who install and service the product. They are professionals invaluable to the trouble-free performance of automatic doors in all the functions they serve.