Building sustainable, efficient hospitals: What is required?

Efficient hospitals

Hospitals to get designed in ways that will minimise Hospital Acquired Infections

Escalating healthcare costs, a growing disease burden and a chronic shortage of healthcare professionals, particularly in developing countries, are forcing a rethink on the way hospitals should be designed and built in order to meet the needs of patients and specific regions to provide cost-effective, sustainable in-hospital services.

“Gone are the days of replicating hospital designs that don’t work just because it has always been done like that. People who build and design hospitals need to understand that healthcare institutions are ever-evolving systems and that they need to evolve with them while ensuring that quality standards are continually updated,” says CJ DeAngelo, a healthcare technology planner with GE Healthcare and one of the speakers at the Africa Health Exhibition & Congress.

According to DeAngelo, the most efficient use of limited square metres, installing the correct equipment for the application, ensuring that the environment allows for the optimal usage of the equipment, improving patient flow, and the reduction of multi-patient wards to minimise the spread of infections, should be top-of-mind considerations when designing healthcare institutions.

“In addition, there is a growing effort to make hospitals more casual and comfortable for patients, instead of wasting money on non-revenue producing spaces to make them look like expensive hotels. This can be done with creative design and effective use of natural light,” says DeAngelo.

He explains that by combining break areas, limiting private office space and moving outpatient clinics and doctors’ rooms to cheaper buildings outside the hospital can also go a long way in saving space and making it more cost-effective. “In addition, the introduction of digital diagnostics not only frees up space that was traditionally used for film storage, view boxes and wet printing, but also extends the use of this technology to areas out of the hospital, minimising the burden on hospital systems and staff.”

While it is difficult to address the growing disease burden and demand for healthcare globally without the addition of more hospital beds, the trend is to move away from large general wards to smaller rooms with a strong focus on infection control, noted DeAngelo.

According to the World Health Organization, hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are currently the most frequent adverse event in healthcare delivery worldwide – with an estimated 10 out of every 100 hospitalised patients acquiring an HAI in developing countries and 7 out of every 100 in developed countries. The high prevalence of tuberculosis in some African countries also requires an increased focus on the building of secluded wards, natural cross ventilation and an effective triage system to diagnose patients early and prevent the spread of the disease.

DeAngelo points out that it is not just the physical hospital space that needs to change. “Improving patient flow and optimising equipment usage through improved scheduling practices are also key in designing efficient, accessible hospital systems.”

Referring to his exposure to developing hospital systems all over the world, DeAngelo emphasises that there is no blueprint for what the hospital of the future will or should look like.

However, with an increased focus on patient safety, cutting costs, improving infection control and making patient care more efficient, affordable and accessible, there are developing trends that should be considered, concludes DeAngelo. “These include an increase in day hospitals for short procedure surgeries and diagnostics, a move away from multi-patient wards, the offering of diagnostic services around the clock to reduce waiting times, and talking out-patient services and doctors’ room out of hospital buildings to reduce the cost of construction and save space.”

DeAngelo spoke at the Hospital Build conference, which forms part of the 7th annual Africa Health Exhibition & Congress 2017 taking place from 7-9 June 2017 at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. More than 10,000 regional and international healthcare professionals and medical experts are expected to attend the event.

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