Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are the bane of every hospital. Strategies are put in place to reduce bacteria and viruses. But, as Ms. Cahnman rightly questions in her article in Healthcare Design Magazine, “In our zeal to create an ultra-clean patient environment, are we actually removing ecosystems that can help heal?”
Apparently researchers have now created a cleanliness model that looks at the biodiversity of a hospital’s interior spaces at the microbial level in order to try to understand what constitutes a healthy condition. This is huge as it will directly influence how hospitals are designed, operated, and maintained in the future.
Jessica Green, biodiversity scientist at the University of Oregon, named this “bioinformed design”—how we can design to promote beneficial microbes and inhibit harmful ones.
So why is this necessary? Antibiotics taken by patients in hospitals kill not just the bad bacteria but also the good ones. This makes patients more susceptible to HAIs.
The Hospital Microbiome Project is currently studying the new University of Chicago Center for Care & Discovery, an inpatient facility. The study includes how ventilation, humidity, and design features affect both good and bad bacteria. The goal, by mapping where and what types of microbes occur in the patient room, is to potentially target and eliminate harmful pathogens. Early findings suggest that a less sterile room may actually reduce the prevalence of harmful microbes by making them compete with healthy ones.
Can air vents be positioned optimally? Is it possible to design and locate toilets in such a way as to keep bad microbes away yet be near enough for a patient to use? The redesign of existing space in a medical facility or building a brand new hospital is a fascinating arena to be in right now as so many bioinformed design aspects that were never considered in the past have to be taken into account now. (image via shutterstock)