Patient Safety

her article “Designing for Safety,” Catherine Gow, AIA, discusses design solutions for patient safety. The safety aspects of patient rooms typically cover patient falls and infections. These events, which cost the healthcare system billions of dollars, also force patient to stay longer, leaving them exposed to infection for a prolonged period of time. The design of existing patient rooms was evaluated and the committee determined that patient falls contributed to the design of the room. - Limiting views to the patient room - Limited family space where fewer family members were in the room and were less able to observe - Poor access to toilet rooms - Small toilet rooms - Poor lighting - Slippery materials - Lack of patient control - Lowered bed rails In creating a safe environment for patients, the team applied evidence based design principles to design a room that focused on patient safety. These elements include: A larger space for family members
  • Providing more space for family within the patient room will more likely keep an extra person in the room to monitor the patient. By providing this additional support space, the patients unattended bed exits can be monitored around the clock.
Safe bed exiting
  • In order to keep patients safe while exiting the bed, a non-interrupted clear space should surround the bed for lifts. In the event that a patient will leave their bed unattended, the location of the toilet room is important. Grab bars help guide patients to the toilet room, while providing a fixed element for support. Lights that lead the way to the toilet room, as well as automatic lights inside the toilet room create a safer environment in the event of bed exiting.
Wider door openings for patient bathrooms
  • Where most patient bathrooms have a single door meant for one person at a time, a safer solution is to have a wider door opening. This provides enough space for the patient and the caregiver.
Open showers in patient bathrooms
  • Open or European style showers allow for the patient and the caregiver, or the patient and a shower chair.
Finishes that reduce the spread of infection
  • Many of the falls and slips in patient rooms happen in the bathroom where slippery tiles are a hazard. Smaller tiles with more grout create more friction. In the bed area, vinyl sheet or plank flooring with padding helps with traction control. All surfaces should be easy to clean and easily decontaminated.
Technology and equipment integration
  • High performance technology allows patients to have more control over their room. Beds that can be adjusted closer to the floor are easier for bed exiting. Allowing patients to control lighting levels creates a less stressful environment. Remote communication tools allow patients to request help in a hazardous situation.
Staff handwashing sink/visual cues
  • The handwashing sink should always be at the entry/exit of the room to prevent HAI’s (Healthcare Associated Infection). A visual cue such as a down light above the sink will remind visitors to decontaminate before entering the room completely.
Decentralized nurses stations
  • These allow nurses to be closer to their patients in times of emergency. It decreases the travel distance for the caregiver, as well as better visuals.
Patient Safety - Health Architecture Gow, Catherine. Designing for Safety. Healthcare Design Magazine. November 18, 2011.

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