Design of the environment of care for safety of patients and personnel: does form follow function or vice versa in the intensive care unit?

Judene Bartley, Andrew J Streifel
Critical Care Medicine 2010, 38 (8 Suppl): S388-98
We review the context of the environment of care in the intensive care unit setting in relation to patient safety and quality, specifically addressing healthcare-associated infection issues and solutions involving interdisciplinary teams. Issues addressed include current and future architectural design and layout trends, construction trends affecting intensive care units, and prevention of construction-associated healthcare-associated infections related to airborne and waterborne risks and design solutions. Specific elements include single-occupancy, acuity-scalable intensive care unit rooms; environmental aspects of hand hygiene, such as water risks, sink design/location, human waste management, surface selection (floor covering, countertops, furniture, and equipment) and cleaning, antimicrobial-treated or similar materials, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, specialized rooms (airborne infection isolation and protective environments), and water system design and strategies for safe use of potable water and mitigation of water intrusion. Effective design and operational use of the intensive care unit environment of care must engage critical care personnel from initial planning and design through occupancy of the new/renovated intensive care unit as part of the infection control risk assessment team. The interdisciplinary infection control risk assessment team can address key environment of care design features to enhance the safety of intensive care unit patients, personnel, and visitors. This perspective will ensure the environment of care supports human factors and behavioral aspects of the interaction between the environment of care and its occupants.

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