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The Role of Designers in Controlling Infection in Medical Facilities

One of the most pressing issues in medical facilities today is the presence of infectious disease.  Planning and choice of materials play a major role in infection control creating environments that reduce the opportunity for transmission of infections.

A good understanding of transmission of infectious diseases is very important to a successful design of a medical facility.  Infections are transmitted through three primary routes: contact (direct and indirect), droplets, and airborne.  Most infections and viruses are spread by contact from an infected patient to the care provider or equipment/surfaces and then to another patient who then becomes infected.  The bacteria (Staph) and its antibiotic-resistant strain, (MRSA), are commonly carried on the skin and become dangerous when entering the body through a cut or wound. While these bacteria can be deadly, they can be controlled through proper hygiene.

Prevent Direct Contact Transmission
Hand washing is considered the most effective means of eliminating bacteria and viruses. Proper hand washing before and after medical staff touches a patient can prevent disease from being transmitted from one patient to another.  Human nature and overbooked schedules often contribute to the neglect of this basic task.  While placing the sink next to the door does not insure that staff will wash their hands, it does make it easier and will increase the chances of use.  The placement of face masks, gloves, etc. follows the same principle. They must be placed where staff can easily access them and in clear view.

Prevent Indirect Contact Transmission
The choice of materials, furnishings and the detailing of spaces can greatly reduce the potential of infection.  Some items that should be focused on during the design process of a facility to help reduce infections are as follows:

  • Provide adequate writing surfaces in clinical areas to reduce or eliminate the possibility of placing charts or other paper work on known contaminated surfaces.
  • Provide adequate equipment storage.  This minimizes clutter and optimizes cleaning effectiveness.
  • Minimize reveals, pendants, suspended surfaces, corners, edges, etc., where ever possible to avoid potential infectious transmission.  Areas that are difficult to reach tend not be cleaned or not cleaned as frequently as other more easily reached surfaces.
  • Materials that are non-microbial are preferred.  Monolithic surfaces minimize or eliminate joints that can harbor mold and bacteria.

As illustrated, proper design of spaces can have a strong influence on human behavior, which can have a positive impact in reducing infectious disease in a facility.

For a complimentary consultation on how to improve infection control or if you are considering building or remodeling a medical facility contact HFS at (302) 995-6805 or info@healthcarefs.com.

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