From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Hospital Design Could Be Set Up For Failure

A new report indicates that too many healthcare products and services may have been designed without sufficient knowledge about how or where they would be used, and have therefore become contributing factors to the number of medical errors seen in today’s healthcare systems.

The report, Design for Patient Safety, a joint effort by London’s Design Council and England’s Department of Health, also indicates that taking steps to improve ergonomics throughout the healthcare system via designing out the potential for flaws before an error ever happens will drastically cut the risk of medical errors and make hospitals safer for patients and better environments for health care workers.

In the 45-page report, authors noted that the current state of design for health care has inadvertently allowed an error potential to be either overlooked or designed into the system.

The report’s authors, members of the Design Council, the Robens Centre for Health Ergonomics at the University of Surrey, the Engineering Design Centre, Cambridge University and the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre at the Royal College of Art, focused on problems within the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS). In their research, the authors discovered that the NHS is “seriously out of step with modern thinking and practice” with regard to design, and that the design of individual devices and products needs to be improved as does the manner in which the NHS regards design thinking and methods that will improve the organization as a whole.

Recommendations from the report include developing design standards for equipment and packaging, better design decision-making through an increased knowledge of the NHS system, and an evaluation process for designs based on how each design will contribute to patient safety. The report’s authors also recommend creating an advisory panel to work with the National Patient Safety Agency, a group formed three years ago to help the British government learn from medical accidents.

The full report is available on the Design Council’s website at