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Sustainability, Infection Prevention, Evidence-Based Design Among Trends in Healthcare Construction

The $41 billion healthcare construction industry is going green as it anticipates growing 11 percent in 2007, according to a Health Technology Center (HealthTech) study. HealthTech reports that sustainability principles are lowering energy costs, creating environments less prone to the spread of infection, and reducing the carbon footprint of health facilities.

U.S. hospitals are discovering that sustainable design practices not only reduce energy costs, but lower infection rates, according to the study. Technologies - such as motion sensors for lights, faucets, and doorways - reduce the transmission of infections as well as lowering the $5.3 billion spent annually on energy.

"The high cost of energy and operations, coupled with increasing environmental consciousness, has elevated the importance of green design for healthcare facilities," said Molly J. Coye, MD, CEO of HealthTech. "Green technology investment has become cost-effective and pays for itself within a few years."

Principles that reduce hospital acquired infection rates and manage the prevalence of multi-drug resistant organisms is another critical trend in healthcare facility design. Wireless communications, RFID tracking, anti-microbial surfaces, negative pressure isolation rooms, single patient rooms, and emergency department entrance alternatives are used to reduce infections, which claim up to 100,000 lives every year.

Another trend is the use of evidence-based design to assure that facilities support clinical efficiency, patient safety, and deployment of emerging information and clinical technologies.

"Hospital CEO's face significant financial challenges. They want evidence that care environments are improving patient outcomes and workforce efficiency," said Steven DeMello, director of research and forecasting for HealthTech.

Design research databases, modeling and simulation, virtual environments, process software, and manufacturing quality techniques (e.g. LEAN, Six Sigma) are among the tools increasingly used by hospitals and design firms, according to DeMello.

The report profiles several organizations that have successfully acted on these trends, including:
  • The Patrick H. Dollard Discovery Health Center in upstate New York which is saving $50,000 annually more than projected after designing the facility to become a Leadership in Energy and Environment Design certified facility;
  • Sutter Health's in California and in Seattle Virginia Mason's use of LEAN principles to design a hospital and improve process flow, respectively;
  • Peace Health in the Pacific Northwest participated in the Pebble Project (researching effect of facility design on quality of care and financial performance) to install patient lifts and booms, resulting in 99% fewer injuries;
  • Multi-state Kaiser Permanente development with a carpet manufacturer of a PVC-free carpet with the same performance as vinyl carpeting.
HealthTech is a research organization and expert network that offers its partner hospitals and health systems proprietary reports, decision support tools, and educational events for adopting care delivery innovations and deploying emerging technologies. Partners develop a competitive advantage by using HealthTech's resources to redesign care, plan future facilities, prioritize technology investments and avoid costly errors.

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