Impact of Facility Design on Patient Safety

There is a severe lack of awareness regarding the prevalent influence of the built environment on caregiving activities, and how its design could reduce risks for patients and providers. As an architecture firm, we think it's important to raise awareness regarding the critical role of the built environment in meeting patient safety improvement targets. In this article we'd like to help chart a path forward that seeks to consolidate existing challenges and suggests what can be done to create a safer, higher quality healthcare environment.

Preventing Infections with Design

Patient safety is a broad topic that encompasses everything from medication safety, to fall prevention, security, and patient handling. But infection control is perhaps amongst one of the more important aspects to designing for patient safety. Of course, infections pose a threat to more than just patients. Everyone who walks through your doors are at risk. Despite growingly strict protocols to reduce risk, health care infections remain a major threat to patient safety. There is a full body of literature on the role of operational strategies in addressing the prevention of infection. But most of this research rather surprisingly ignores the role of the built environment! What could pose a more immediate threat to your patients than the surfaces they come in contact with, and the air they breathe? Design strategies include: Antimicrobial Finishes and Materials, Fewer Horizontal Surfaces, Increased Screening Areas, Flexible Triage Areas, Hand Wash/Sanitizer Stations, and more. Design can influence multiple outcomes and lead to the creation of safer and healthier buildings.

Patient Safety and Security

The next aspect of patient safety we want to cover is security. The best, most cost-effective time for a healthcare organization to think about their security is during a new building's design and construction! Designing security features into a new facility or renovated space can improve both safety and security, while lowering operational costs and improving customer service and patient satisfaction. So, don't overlook security during the design phase! It's common for people to get so caught up in the flashier aspects of design that security can get put off for later. By the time it is considered, many of the biggest security design decisions (i.e. stairwell location, traffic pattern, etc.) have unknowingly been made.

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