When we think of modern hospitals, we often think of high-tech medical devices, patient beds surrounded by machines, or networked operating rooms. Yet it is not only the equipment in patient rooms that leads to a better and faster recovery. A hospital that delivers a positive experience for patients, their families, and medical staff centers on smart design from the very beginning.
Equipment, furniture, and furnishings of patient care spaces – everything that is key to the treatment process – are the last step in a hospital construction project. And although patients probably do not exactly "enjoy" being in a hospital, the course for a comfortable stay that ideally results in better health outcomes can already be set at an early stage.
This is possible thanks to healing architecture, an architectural approach that creates environments that promote the healing process. It includes the targeted use of light and artificial lighting to create a more comfortable and relaxing ambiance. The design of spaces that promote healing "involves surfaces and LED lighting options whose design promotes a comfortable, homelike environment – not just as it pertains to the wall supply units, but also as it relates to the drawer fronts of intensive care workstations," explains Werner Frenz of Dräger Medical Deutschland GmbH, in a MEDICA-tradefair.com interview.
Comprehensive concepts can also promote this idea. This includes a closer connection to nature by applying green spaces to the design of the building and its surroundings. Healing architecture is also meant to foster the presence and support of loved ones who accompany patients on their hospital stay. Yet it also aims to facilitate a comfortable working environment for the hospital staff. "We must also ensure that medical staff can create an environment where patients feel more comfortable in their surroundings. To do this, the former must be able to self-manage and reduce their own job-related stress and physical strain," Frenz adds.
One building, many functions
"Healing architecture" can both promote healing of patients and improve the working conditions of the staff by closer tieing the hospital to nature, parks or green areas, among other things.
The hospital building must also meet functional requirements to prepare hospitals for the future and its challenges. Since spring 2020, hospitals must take isolation precautions to prevent the transmission of infectious agents. In many instances, entire wards had to be redesignated to care for all patients with a confirmed coronavirus infection, while stopping the virus from spreading to other parts of the hospital. Hospital construction and design can address these challenges by facilitating the flexible use of wards. Examples include building designs that ensure flexible options to separate units and rooms, additional equipment, or the setup of infection protection and control measures such as locks and changing rooms for the staff with access to the isolation rooms. The installation of ventilation units with air filtration systems is also beneficial.
But infection prevention and control in hospitals has not just been a top priority since the onset of the current pandemic. Nosocomial infections, and especially those caused by multidrug-resistant organisms, present a major threat in hospitals. According to WHO estimates, 10 percent of patients suffering from a health care-associated infection will die from it. That is why the KARMIN project investigated how the design of a patient room can prevent infections in hospitals. Based on the study results, a model patient room was created on the grounds of the Braunschweig Municipal Hospital to facilitate future studies on architecture and design. "In this laboratory, researchers from the TU Braunschweig (Technical University of Braunschweig) and the Fraunhofer Society will collaborate with the experts of the Municipal Hospital to continuously develop innovative, practical model solutions for hospital architecture. This includes smart materials and surfaces, as well as the assessment of care, treatment, and cleaning scenarios," explains project manager D. Eng. Wolfgang Sunder from the Technical University of Braunschweig in a MEDICA-tradefair.com interview.
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Green Hospital - Sustainability at the University Hospital Bonn
Large hospital complexes such as the University Hospital Bonn can save millions when they implement well thought-out energy-saving measures. Michael Körber reports how the UKB is already implementing this with the help of combined heat and power units and a comprehensive sustainability concept. Manuel Merges from the energy company engie Deutschland GmbH describes how these projects were also possible with the help of external financing.
Holistic hospital design
Ultimately, hospital design and construction must also address climate change, one of the key social challenges of our times. It must tackle the issue in two ways: on the one hand, hospitals consume many resources as it pertains to energy, heat, and water. The Green Hospital concept aims to reduce resource usage in this setting. It embraces structural and other measures that improve hospital sustainability. In doing so, hospitals contribute to reducing their carbon footprints.
On the other hand, hospital design and construction must not only affect the causes but also the consequences of climate change. For example, heat waves can put weakened patients at risk, but also result in worse working conditions. In the future, hospital design and planning must also integrate the heat resilience of a building and consider smaller windows instead of large glass panes or provide green spaces, for example.
These examples show how smart hospital design and construction must reconcile multifaceted requirements. The design and planning process increasingly embraces the fact that a hospital is not just a building where patients are treated, and medical staff goes to work. Rather than focusing merely on functionality, it is increasingly important to put people center stage. The hospital and its planning and design process can no longer be considered in isolation but must be viewed as part of a greater whole. "It takes mutual understanding because structural changes involve planners and architects plus the hospital employees. Only then can design and planning result in optimal solutions that ultimately benefit everyone," Frenz sums up.
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