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How One Swedish Hospital Shut the Door on Infections

April 2015
Author: Lisa Ellis

Antibiotic-resistant infections have become a major public health issue in the United States. In other countries, however, the problem doesn’t appear as severe or as widespread. It’s worth taking a look at what they’re doing differently to see what we can learn from their efforts.

Sweden is a country with particularly low rates of infections, and there are a number of factors that may contribute to its success in this area. First, antibiotic use is more conservative in Sweden than in the United States, making antibiotic-resistant infections much less of a problem. In addition, Swedish hospitals incorporate some interesting design choices that can help to prevent the spread of infections.

At a hospital in Malmo, Sweden, the administration encouraged involvement from infectious disease specialists and staff in the design and construction of a new facility a few years back. Some of the priorities on their design list included generously-sized single patient rooms and a high-quality ventilation system.

Other key design elements that were integrated into their final plan were outside entrances through a balcony into each room instead of a central hallway. This innovative approach helped to contain germs. They also created designated airlock chambers that allow staff to enter and exit quarantine rooms with the air exhaust occurring through the patient’s bathroom.

To make sure these and other ideas would play out well in a fast-paced medical setting, the hospital created a fully operational mock-up room in order to test the various systems for maximum efficiency and functionality. The test room also proved to be a valuable place to train staff on the most effective use of these new systems and processes.

These and other design elements have helped the hospital minimize the spread of infectious diseases in their patient population—and they position the facility well to handle future outbreaks.

Healthcare designers in the U.S. might look to this approach for future construction projects and renovations as we struggle to find new ways to shut the door on life-threatening illnesses in our facilities.


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