Hospitals are the subject of much study in the architecture and design world of late.  Evidence strongly suggests that there is a direct connection between the hospital environment and patients’ perception of the quality of care received.  That connection is also true for hospital staff, who report that the physical environment of the hospital directly correlates to employee satisfaction, productivity, and stress levels.  As a result of this information, hospitals are beginning to use Evidence Based Design (EBD) principles to improve the experience of both patients and staff.

Evidence Based Design encourages coordination and collaboration of nurses, physicians, designers, architects, hospital administrators, support staff, clinicians, patients and family to create a space that is efficient, safe, and healthy.  Assembling this diverse team will ensure that the design reflects the best ideas from all interested parties, creating a patient-centered care environment that benefits everyone.

One area of hospital care that may require the most immediate adoption of EBD principles is the Emergency Department, but many of these principles can be easily applied throughout the hospital to improve patient care.  Emergency departments are often overcrowded, a trend which may become even more evident with the changing healthcare laws.  Emergency room facilities need to find ways to deal with the crowding to improve workflow for staff, aid in patient recovery, and reduce stress for all involved.

Organizational Flow

Incorporating EBD principles into the design process can improve organizational flow in Emergency Departments.  Triage areas become extremely important in determining the needs of each patient, from low acuity to high acuity.  A fast track area for low acuity patients frees up urgent care space and speeds up the process for patients and staff.  The use of fast track areas has been shown to improve Emergency Department flow and throughput for patients with less urgent needs, without compromising quality of care.  The traditional urgent care areas are left open for patients with more severe health concerns.  In order to maximize efficiency, the fast track area can be designed with flexibility to accommodate higher acuity patients when necessary.  For individual rooms, EBD suggests that same-handed patient rooms, where the bed and equipment are in the same position in each room, not mirrored as in traditional settings, can increase efficiency for staff.  Decentralized nurse stations also improve flow, because they limit unnecessary trips to and from a centralized station.

Waiting Areas

Traditionally, patient waiting areas in Emergency Departments are crowded areas that create unease for waiting patients and their families.  By creating smaller sub-waiting areas within the department, patients who have been evaluated and treated have a place to wait for prescriptions to be filled, test results to be delivered, or medical supplies to be acquired.  This frees up exam and treatment space for other patients and improves the overall flow of the department.

Geriatric Patients

Aging patients may require more care or have different needs than other segments of the population.  Evidence Based Design suggests that by incorporating individual rooms that are highly flexible, the needs of the growing number of aging patients can be easily accommodated.  Areas of concern for geriatric patients are light levels, noise, and visibility.  Adjustable lighting can improve patient comfort, without sacrificing visibility for other patients and staff, and using noise-reducing finishes can reduce stress.

Evidence Based Design represents the future of healthcare design, offering a unique opportunity to improve staff efficiency, improve safety, and elevate patient care and satisfaction, all of which lead to significant returns on investment.

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