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Striking a Balance Between Design & Operations in Healthcare

Striking a Balance Between Design & Operations in Healthcare

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“Operations take place within the built environment.” That’s a seemingly obvious but salient point made last month in Healthcare Design by Jennifer Kovacs Silvis. Silvis noticed a major blind spot in an otherwise eye-opening continuing study by the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare. Although the research study incorporated “robust problem-solving methodology” to effectively reduce patient falls, its results could have been much more effective with the inclusion of evidence-based design (EBD).

Why evidence-based design is powerful

According to the Center for Health Design, the body of scientific data is overwhelming that environment is essentially about functionality. It plays a key role in the following core concerns of healthcare organizations:
• safety of patients and staff
• stress levels among patients
• effectiveness of staff activities
• quality of care.

Evidence-based design (EBD) is the strategic use of credible research within workspace design to craft an environment that leads to the strongest patient outcomes while meeting the overall objectives of the facility.

Missing link of healthcare fall study

The study, entitled “Preventing Falls with Injury,” was conducted in cooperation with seven healthcare groups, including Kaiser Permanente and Baylor Health System. The researchers first identified contributing factors and then developed targeted solutions to mitigate the risk posed by each factor http://www.jointcommission.org/assets/4/6/Falls_10_reasons_chart.pdf. The results after 18 months suggested that the implemented strategies were incredibly effective: by that point, 35% fewer falls were occurring, and the risk of injury from a fall had plummeted 62%.

As Silvis notes, “[t]his type of data is exciting,” but the figures could be even more impressive if the scope of the solutions were broader. The tactics employed by the researchers aimed to optimize the functionality and safety of operations, but they did not incorporate changes to design. Beyond the steps already taken in the patient fall project, Silvis suggests conducting an environmental assessment, exploring elements such as the following (particularly with regards to the path between bathroom and bed):
• lighting
• flooring
• dimensions of furniture.

The bottom line

The reason that evidence-based design is becoming increasingly commonplace in healthcare is that it renders design choices quantitative (as does the related field of data-driven design http://datadrivendesignblog.com/category/evidence-based-design/) rather than relying on the qualitative decision-making of the intuition-driven design model. EBD turns workspace design into hard numbers, which can in turn be converted into savings. “Preventing Falls with Injury” found that using its operational preventive tactics, 133 fewer patients would experience falls at a 400-bed hospital, cutting the facility’s costs by $1.9 million.

Almost $2 million in savings may sound incredible, but Silvis noticed that prevention strategies can be even more effective if research from additional fields were incorporated. At Beaux-Arts Group, we agree that using a diversified body of knowledge leads to the most positive results. Our furniture and design firm was founded by architects, allowing a productive synergy between your facility and its interior spaces. Contact us today.
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