Blog / Focus: Facility Design

The intersection of design and healthcare

By Alejandra Edwards-Garcia / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
June 20, 2019

Patient readmission rates remain one of hospital’s top concerns. Anytime a patient returns to the hospital with a healthcare associated infection (HAI), it can cost the hospital up to billions of dollars in penalties.

According to data from the Center for Health Information and Analysis, hospital readmissions cost Medicare about $26 billion annually, with about $17 billion spent on preventable hospital trips after discharge. Many elements like communication and planning can positively contribute to this issue. Hospital design, on the other hand, can have a greater impact by reducing facility costs and readmission rates.

Beyond design

Besides aesthetics, hospitals are seeking architectural updates that improve safety, environmental friendliness and patient/staff satisfaction. Healthcare architects consider infection control a paramount area in an upgrade. With readmission rates in mind, an important integration is individual hand-washing stations. A simple system, healthcare facilities can implement in order to contain the spread of germs and bacteria.

Yet the spread of infections doesn’t stop with just hand washing. Proper hand drying is a vital part of hand hygiene. Bacteria is more likely to transfer onto surfaces from wet skin than from dry skin.

Often medical settings offer paper towels as a primarily drying method. This practice, however, poses some risks to patients with low immune systems. Research published in the American Journal of Infection Control indicated that unused paper towels could harbor bacteria. Conversely, the U.S. National Institute of Health concluded hot air dryers are safe when it comes to bacterial contamination.

Hand dryers enhance sanitation with their built-in antimicrobial technology, at a fraction of a cost. This combination not only impacts the facility’s bottom line, but it gives hospitals more control over illness contagion. Additionally, hand dryers contribute towards the facility’s sustainability goals, by earning LEED credits with their installation.

Happier patients = loyal visitors  

Patients are becoming savvier at choosing healthcare providers. Their choices are no longer bound by their health plans. When seeking treatment, other factors are driving their decision; facility cleanliness, technology, and the level of customer service delivered by staff. The recovery experience is another large contributor, which allows them to return home faster.

It's in the hospital’s best interest to try and bring in as many patients as possible. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services first introduced the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey (HCAHPS) in 2006. The purpose of this survey was to measure patient outlook of healthcare facilities.

In 2012, the scores became a measure of how much the government compensated hospitals for care. In recent years, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began merging hospital scores into a one- through five-star overall rating. The higher the score, the more the hospital gets paid.

With bottom line requirements constantly pressing on hospitals there’s no resource too small to use. Use hospital design as a driver of not just sales and patient satisfaction, but as a tactic to eliminate the number one problem: patient readmission rates.

Alejandra Edwards-Garcia is a marketing analyst for Zurn Industries, LLC, a provider of water solutions for commercial, municipal, healthcare and industrial markets.

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