How Healthcare Facility Design Impacts Patient Care

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Twenty years ago, a landmark report titled, “To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System” shocked healthcare providers and administration when it revealed that 2-4% of all deaths in the U.S. are caused by medical errors. While the report shed light on patient care inefficiencies and lack of provider communication, it got researchers asking, “How can medical errors be prevented?”

To answer that question, host Shelby Skrhak sat down with Dr. Anjali Joseph of Clemson University for this episode of Plan. Build. Equip., a Covalus podcast.

Dr. Joseph is a professor of architecture and director of the Center for Health Facilities Design & Testing at Clemson University. Joseph studies how healthcare environments can be designed to make these high-risk areas safer for clinicians and patients.

“‘To Err Is Human’ shocked a lot of people,” Joseph said. “No one had seen the data that showed going into the hospital could be so dangerous. “

The dangers of hospital-acquired conditions such as infections, injuries from falls and wrong medications or dosages were thrust under the microscope, and people’s first thought was that nurses and physicians were not doing something right.

“They thought, ‘We need to train our clinicians better — nurses and physicians. They’re not doing the job,'” Joseph said. “The result was, ‘Let’s fix the people who give care.’ But what was lost is the focus on the system. The healthcare system was broken and flawed.”

Fixing an entire healthcare system is quite the task, but researchers like Dr. Joseph began problem solving with facilities design.

On this episode, Dr. Joseph shares tips for designing a more efficient operating room that limits unnecessary traffic around the operating table, keeps equipment cleaner and dust-free, and ensures up-to-the-minute information sharing for all essential providers.