Designing for Patient Safety: Developing Methods to Integrate Patient Safety Concerns in the Design Process

Jan 01, 2011

Purpose: The project aimed to develop consensus around important patient safety issues to be considered during various stages in the healthcare design process and to identify key activities, methodologies, and tools for improving facility design in terms of patient safety.

Scope: There is an urgent need for a strong methodology to identify and eliminate built environment latent conditions that impact patient safety during the planning, design, and construction of healthcare facilities. The project focused on developing the processes, tools, and approaches by which safe design features could be incorporated into building designs.

Methods: Resources and background materials for the seminar were developed by (1) reviewing literature for design tools/approaches and a framework for tool evaluation, (2) compiling opinion papers by industry and academic experts, and (3) developing a safe design roadmap for healthcare administrators. About 70 individuals with diverse backgrounds attended the 2-day seminar, which involved presentations and discussions in different formats—presentations, panel discussions, tours, and workgroups. After the seminar, the notes were analyzed and synthesized, and a survey was conducted to gain attendees’ feedback.

Results: One of the key findings from the seminar was that it is critical to focus on patient safety issues during the predesign phase of a healthcare facility building project. This affects all key decisions made downstream in the project. Seminar attendees identified high-priority design activities for patient safety: articulation of project mission/vision, operational/future state planning, simulation, process-led design, measurable goals/metrics, ongoing check-ins, post-occupancy evaluation, and safety reviews. Highly rated design tools included simulation, process analysis, link analysis, balanced scorecard, failure modes and effects analysis, and others. Most attendees viewed the seminar as highly valuable and effective.

Anjali Joseph, PhD, EDAC
Xiaobo Quan, PhD, EDAC
Ellen Taylor, AIA, MBA, EDAC
Matthew Jelen, EDAC
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
The Center for Health Design

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