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    Hospital design a specialisation that is critical to saving lives says report

    Branko Miletic

    Studies indicate that miscommunication is responsible for up to 80 per cent of medical errors. In the hectic setting of the Emergency Department (ED), the design of a hospital can literally be the difference between life and death. 

    According to research between Hassell, the University of Melbourne Centre for Health Policy, the Monash Health Partnership at Deakin University, and the Australian Commonwealth Department of Industry, design is a major factor in the efficacy of a hospital.

    The report found that three factors drive communication in the ED - safety, privacy and connection. 
    In other words, medical staff need a new type of hospital design that will provide:

    • space for patient-related case talk and personal talk that foster connections between medical staff
    • space to work out of sight and hearing of patients (when necessary) and to allow medical staff to take refuge from stressful situations
    • separation from patients and balancing the need for a clinical environment with patient comfort

    The solution lies in creating ED workspace designs with small, adaptable spaces that allow a line of sight across the ED but are acoustically separated from patients, such as small glazed spaces, standing desks that foster the conversations that happen on the fly as colleagues walk by, as well as sit and go booths for short informal meetings.

    According to Hassell principal Megan Reading, “While they require significant investment and are years in the planning and construction, hospital design must address current demographic health needs and those that are anticipated over the next 30-50 years.”

    “They must also meet equity of health access initiatives and respond to a wide range of people, from the frail elderly to the vulnerable newborn, and everything in between whilst accommodatoin medical and technological advancements that are associated with evolving health care,” said Reading.

    “While multi residential and education buildings also have changing programs,” noted Reading, she pointed out that “they are still delivering on the constants of a known population accessing the building and slower technological changes.”

    “Stakeholder engagement for residential buildings will be limited to authorities, community groups and others affected by the development in the concept stage, but rarely beyond that.”

    “Education buildings can have complex programs requiring extensive briefing but this is largely confined to the University or education institution itself and would not generally require engagement with a broader government body,” she said.

    “Hospital scoping and briefing can take years before a design and construction team is engaged and by the time the hospital is designed and built, it is already several years out of date.”

    “Designers and health providers can only aim for accurate assumptions around future health needs, design for technological advancement and building expansion and flexibility so the hospital is best placed to readily respond to the future."

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