Doctoring surgical spaces to provide better care

There are more than 100 million hospital visits every year, and many lead to the operating room.  Despite the heavy use of operating rooms and major advancements to medical procedures and technologies, many operating room spaces are antiquated, poorly designed and cramped. This can be an unsafe working environment and an impediment to patient care.

Since 2015, a Clemson professor and a multidisciplinary research team have been working to change the way operating rooms are designed — and now, their designs are receiving national recognition.

“In recent years, there have been tremendous advances in medical procedures and technologies, but the physical environment in which this care is provided has been somewhat overlooked,” said Anjali Joseph, principal investigator of the learning lab on Realizing Improved Patient Care Through Human-Centered Design in the Operating Room, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Joseph, Clemson’s Spartanburg Regional Health System Endowed Chair in Architecture + Health Design, co-principal investigator Scott T. Reeves ’83, M.D., the Medical University of South Carolina’s John E. Mahaffey, M.D., endowed chair, and a team of graduate students, faculty and industry professionals have taken a comprehensive research approach to redesigning operating rooms to create an evidence-based design solution that simultaneously tackles problems related to workflow, equipment design and the built environment — major areas that impact patient safety.

The team also has included windows to provide daylight to teams who typically work long hours with little access to the outdoors.

“The project proposes an operating room that can be implemented in many hospitals. More importantly, our findings will be integrated into a proactive design tool that will allow health care professionals to understand the range of issues involved in designing safer operating rooms, which will be useful to both health care architects and clinicians involved in planning these types of environments,” said Joseph.

You can’t find their design in a hospital — yet — but the design is already being recognized by industry professionals for its excellence. In October 2017, the team received two awards for conceptual design at the Healthcare Design Expo + Conference in Orlando.

The Healthcare Environment Awards selected the design as the sole winner in their conceptual category. These awards honor innovative architectural and interior design solutions that enhance the quality of health care delivery. The design also received a Gold Level EBD Touchstone Award during the inaugural Evidence-Based Design Touchstone Awards for its use of an evidence-based design process in the pursuit of increasing value, improving outcomes and engaging stakeholders.

Concepts from the award-winning design are being implemented now in the Medical University of South Carolina’s new ambulatory surgery center being built in North Charleston, which is slated to open in January 2019.

“I am so proud of this team and of the new and innovative ideas we’ve come up with,” said Joseph. “The students’ profound engagement makes this project truly unique, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact they will have in the future as they launch their own careers.”  

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