Good design at health care facilities can lead to better patient outcomes that, in turn, save money for the owners, a new study finds.

The owners of health care facilities often believe that new design and construction offer little, if any, payback.

“This paper shows that good design is good for business. Building facilities that follow guidelines—as shown by research—will likely to develop more economically viable health care for the community,” says Rana Zadeh, assistant professor of design and environmental analysis at Cornell University.

“Smart spending upfront prevents high costs in the future, and results in fewer infections and injuries for both patients and staff.”

Aging, outdated health care infrastructure—some decades old—is outmoded and needs to be replaced. Experts believe that through 2017, the United States will spend more than $200 billion to refurbish or build new facilities.

green exam room

Good facility design and operation interventions that resulted in reduced hospital-acquired infections, patient falls, staff injuries, and patient anxiety had a considerable payback.

For example, installing ceiling lifts in an intensive care unit led to fewer staff back injuries and resulted in savings of $800,000, according to case studies contained in the research, and constructing acuity-adaptable rooms in a critical care unit yielded $900,000 in savings. Installing artwork in a psychiatric facility waiting room reduced patient agitation and anxiety.

The paper proposes a framework for evidence-based and value-based decision-making about facility design and construction, and then describes making rational, financially informed decisions to put research into practice.

“A window of opportunity is quickly emerging as investments are being made to build and renew health care environments to incorporate the latest efficiency and safety practices,” says Zadeh.

Given the increased urgency to reduce health care costs and improve quality, access to reliable evidence on the best strategies for facility investments could be vital for successful decision-making.

“If we build hospitals based on research to improve care, we are more likely to have better business outcomes as well,” Zadeh says.


This text is published here under a Creative Commons License.
Author: Blaine Friedlander-Cornell University
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