The One Thing Your Organization Needs to do to be Successful This Year

The Kahler Slater Health Care Team spent two years researching the Patient Experience. Of the 13 strategies uncovered, Employ Systems Thinking could be the strategy with the potential to make the single biggest impact on your next project.

Our findings, titled Evaluating Variables of Patient Experience and the Correlation with Design, were published in the peer-reviewed Patient Experience Journal. You can download the white paper here. Our researchers also presented on this topic at The Beryl Institute’s Patient Experience Conference in March 2017.

If we were to recommend one thing for you to think about and consider implementing, right now, consider this:

When we work with our clients to implement research-based facility design solutions and combine them with state-of-the-art operational and clinical protocols, we can influence clinical effectiveness and safety. Employing systems thinking is a cross-functional concept, where design solutions and operational improvements work in concert to achieve powerful results that influence the bottom line. Some of the ways in which the research shows that design supports these protocols and promotes wellness include:

  • The use of materials that improve infection control, noise reduction, and air quality
  • Increasing quietness at night to improve patients’ ability to sleep
  • Providing artwork and/or views with access to nature to reduce stress

And, when we employ systems thinking, applying both operational protocols and facility responses, the research tells us:

  • Patient stress and anxiety, pain and the need for medication can be reduced
  • Patient falls and staff injuries can be reduced
  • Staff stress reduction impacts medication errors and infection rates

One excellent example of applied operational and research-based design is from our client, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital. At the outset of the design of their new hospital, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital established a Safety Design Team to research and develop a safety checklist for every area of the hospital. As the project progressed, the team members disbanded and became members of the project design teams and established:

  • New admitting protocols to assess fall risk on admission
  • Nurse servers designed to include fall prevention kits for every patient room
  • Charting areas with observation windows outside patient rooms and bedside supplies to bring nurses closer to patients

Additionally, they worked with the designers to design patient bedrooms and select interior finishes with fall prevention as the top consideration.

Finally, they implemented an “After Action Review” protocol: after every fall or near miss they assess what should be done to prevent future incidents. The results of all of this good work were outstanding; the year they opened, they saw an 80 percent reduction in falls, which was 43 percent below the national average. And, these numbers continue to decline.

Attention to implementing even one positive change can have a ripple effect; not only did the hospital see a reduction in falls but the client also saw an 18 percent boost in staff satisfaction and a 37 percent increase in HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) patient satisfaction measures.

After learning of this compelling success story, perhaps there is a facet of your organization that could benefit from applying this systems-thinking lens. We are experts in activating this strategy to help our clients achieve powerful results. To get started, contact Jennifer Schlimgen, AIA, Vice President, Principal, at