Hospital design and construction is an intricate and expensive endeavor, involving critical safety regulations and codes as well as complex technologies and infrastructure. However, evidence suggests we've been building hospitals all wrong — and that the deficiencies aren’t simply unaesthetic or inconvenient.
Dhruv Khullar, Resident Physician at Massachusetts General, says "evidence suggests we've been building hospitals all wrong." They are the most most expensive facilities to build, with complex infrastructures, technologies, regulations and safety codes. But, we’ve been building them all wrong — and that the deficiencies aren’t simply unaesthetic or inconvenient.
"All those design flaws may be killing us."
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 30% of ICU patients experience healthcare-associated infection during their stay, the risk of which increases the longer their stay. Cited factors including inappropriate use of invasive devices and antibiotics, high-risk procedures, and lack of procedures; although it appears that hospital design may be just as important when it comes to preventing hospital-born illness and infection. Among the aforementioned contributors, the WHO also includes poor infrastructure, inadequate environmental conditions, and overcrowding. Hospital design and construction is an intricate and expensive endeavor, involving critical safety regulations and codes as well as complex technologies and infrastructure.
There are a number of ways to keep flawed designs from making us sicker:
Private rooms reduce the risk of patients withholding parts of their medical history or refusing examination because of the proximity to other patients and lack of confidentiality.
Airborne infections and contamination of surfaces can be avoided with private rooms.
Bacterial infections were decreased by 50% and reduced hospital stay by 10% when patients were moved from shared to private rooms.
Easier-to-clean surfaces and higher quality air filtration may reduce infection.
Preventing poorly lit areas, slippery floors, ill-positioned toilets that are too high or too low can reduce falls and injuries resulting in longer stays.
Decentralized nursing stations that allow nurses to each their patients more efficiently further reduce the risk of injury.
Noise reduction through earplugs and sound-absorbing acoustic panels can improve patient sleep-quality and rate of recovery.
“As a teenager, I had some serious illnesses that forced me to spend time at home in bed,” he told me. “My window was my compass of stability. Every day, I watched the trees in the wind. There was something endlessly calming about it.”
According to research performed by Chalmers University of Technology professor of architecture Robert Ulrich, exposure to nature can greatly improve patient recovery from illness and reduce the risk of becoming prone to further infection.
Patients with views of trees were found to require fewer pain medications and shorter stays than patients with views of brick walls
If window views of nature are not available, studies have shown that substituting with paintings or videos of nature greatly improves patient experience, with higher pain tolerance, fewer medications needed, and lowered heart and blood pressure rates
Dr. Ulrich said the idea for the study came from his personal experience with illness.
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