HCD Virtual Session Q+A: Designing for Medical/Behavioral Health Comorbidity

HCD Virtual will be held Nov. 9-12 and offer a variety of keynote and breakout sessions delivered over four days. Healthcare Design is previewing some of the upcoming educational sessions in a series of Q+As with speakers, sharing what they plan to discuss and key takeaways they plan to offer attendees. For more on the HCD Virtual schedule and registration, visit HCDvirtual.com.

Session: Designing for Medical/Behavioral Health Comorbidity: The Inclusive Inpatient Room, Tuesday, Nov 10, 2:30-3:30 p.m. EST

Speakers: Shary Adams, medical planner, HGA; Kayvan Madani-Nejad, senior healthcare architect, Facilities Standards Service; Terri Zborowsky, design researcher, HGA; Kara Freihoefer, director of research, HGA

The increase in patients with comorbid behavioral health and medical conditions is driving the need for a new room type that meets patients’ medical needs while providing an equally safe environment for healthcare workers. This presentation will highlight the next generation of inpatient room design  including the safety needs of the comorbid mental health patient and how to apply this room type in a design project.

Healthcare Design: What changes in patient populations have you seen in recent years?

Shary Adams: We’re seeing an increase in aging population with dual diagnoses. People are living longer with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or cardiac issues, and this is becoming a growing healthcare issue. We’re also seeing a rise in mental health disorders and particularly mental health patients with comorbidities.

For instance, 68 percent of all patients with mental health disorder have one or more medical conditions, and 29 percent of adults with a chronic medical condition have a comorbid mental disorder. Because of this increase in mental health issues, there’s a need to place patients in a safe environment that meets their medical needs while providing an equally safe environment for healthcare workers who are exposed to potential workplace violence.

How does the concept of a universal/inclusive inpatient room need to evolve to address these changes?

Adams: Focus on intentional design elements that address the critical needs of both patients and staff. In fact, safety for staff should be first, because if they aren’t safe then no one is. This means designing easy access out of the room to get help and integrating accessible communication technology.

Simultaneously, we need to address patient safety and include features that reduce patient harm, such as ligature-resistant fixtures and hidden equipment, and support patient engagement, such as interactive video displays or family support. Calming features such as dimmable lighting, views and access to nature, and a place for family should also be considered. Finally, de-institutionalize the surroundings and create healing spaces that are contextual to patients’ surroundings.

For more on the HCD Virtual schedule and registration, visit HCDvirtual.com.


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