The environment of safe care: Considering building design as one facet of safety

2017-06-15T12:13:14Z (GMT) by Ellen Taylor Sue Hignett Anjali Joseph
Patient safety is often considered in a behavioral context – what can someone do differently to improve outcomes? However, as a complex system of interactions, patient safety is better advanced through a systems thinking lens of human factors and ergonomics (HFE). While HFE is sometimes considered in three domains: physical, cognitive, and organizational, research in the area of the design of the physical environment is often limited to products, equipment and furnishings to accommodate a diverse population of users. With an increased focus on reimbursement related to patient safety as part of healthcare reform, organizations are becoming more aware of their own shortcomings and grappling with solutions to improve performance – typically people and processes. Yet the influence of the built environment, the space in which people work and are cared for , can act as a barrier or enhancement to achieving the desired results– physically, cognitively, and organizationally. Latent conditions of the built environment can contribute to hazards and risk within the system and using Reason’s Swiss Cheese Model can also become an additional layer of defense. A consensus-based safety risk assessment (SRA) design decision tool is being developed to address these built environment latent conditions funded through a three-year grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).