Improve safety, cut costs with better building design

With health reform, the industry will face growing demand, which not only means more patients but more buildings. These structures, brand new or renovated, can be designed to improve patient safety, efficiency and cost, according to an article published yesterday in Hospitals & Health Networks.

To design a clinical environment for patient safety, swap traditional curtains for more pathogen-resistant window coverings, especially given a study last fall, which found that 92 percent of hospital privacy curtains contain potentially harmful bacteria.

Hospitals can ensure better infection control, sleep patterns and healing by adopting single-patient rooms, the article noted. Previous studies have shown that evidence-based design, such as private rooms, improve patient health, reduce medical mistakes and eliminate on staff injuries.

For optimal hand hygiene, hospital construction projects should include hand-washing stations or, at least, hand sanitizer, according to the Hospitals & Health Networks article.

But some safety improvements require more than just design elements. For instance, Sentara Healthcare, which serves Virginia and North Carolina, had to change the culture of its system, its hospitals and its staff to boost hand hygiene compliance from about 77 percent to 95 percent.

With hospitals looking to cut costs and improve quality, rethinking building design could be a good return on investment. Evidence-based design strategies would add an extra $29 million to a $350 million hospital project. However, they would lead to roughly $10 million in annual savings, paying for themselves in only three years, according to the article.

For more:
- read the H&HN column