Medical complications of intra-hospital patient transports: implications for architectural design and research

  • Ulrich R
  • Zhu X
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Literature on healthcare architecture and evidence-based design has rarely considered explicitly that patient outcomes may be worsened by intra-hospital transport (IHT), which is defined as transport of patients within the hospital. The article focuses on the effects of IHTs on patient complications and outcomes, and the implications of such impacts for designing safer, better hospitals. A review of 22 scientific studies indicates that IHTs are subject to a wide range of complications, many of which occur frequently and have distinctly detrimental effects on patient stability and outcomes. The research suggests that higher patient acuity and longer transport durations are associated with more frequent and serious IHT-related complications and outcome effects. It appears no rigorous research has compared different hospital designs and layouts with respect to having possibly differential effects on transport-related complications and worsened outcomes. Nonetheless, certain design implications can be extracted from the existing research literature, including the importance of minimizing transport delays due to restricted space and congestion, and creating layouts that shorten IHT times for high-acuity patients. Limited evidence raises the possibility that elevator-dependent vertical building layouts may increase susceptibility to transport delays that worsen complications. The strong evidence indicating that IHTs trigger complications and worsen outcomes suggests a powerful justification for adopting acuity-adaptable rooms and care models that substantially reduce transports. A program of studies is outlined to address gaps in knowledge.

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