Healthcare Construction: Can Contractors Contribute to Patient Safety


Here’s a staggering statistic – 75,000 patients per year in the United States die from a hospital acquired infection (HAI)* – an infection that is contracted during a patient’s visit which the patient did not have prior to being seen. This staggering number is down from nearly 99,000 in 2010.

By contrast, less than 1 person per year dies from a hospital fire.** Yet there continues to be an incredible amount of emphasis and money spent on fire safety and compartmentation within hospitals – a worthy effort considering the occupants in hospitals are not always capable of exiting a building in the event of a fire.

The emphasis for construction professionals in healthcare is rapidly shifting toward infection control. Of the 75k deaths from HAIs, it is estimated that 5% of these deaths could be attributed to infection control measures during construction/renovation projects.

In May, team members from Benike Construction completed the Healthcare Construction Certificate (HCC) workshop administered by the American Society for Healthcare Engineers (ASHE) at the 6th annual ASHE Conference in Rochester, MN. ASHE provided many takeaways for construction professionals like us who work in the healthcare setting.

The top challenges currently faced in healthcare construction projects are:

  • Noise/vibration
  • Education of Owners, Designers and Contractors on Healthcare Construction Procedures
  • Firestopping
  • Budget Concerns
  • Scheduling Shutdowns for MEP Services (and healthcare specific infrastructure such as pneumatic tube or med gas)
  • Scheduling/Phasing
  • Site Logistics, Availability of Space
  • Interim Life Safety Measures (ILSM)
  • Maintaining Clean Job Sites

These challenges are project-centric, and while they do exist, and need to be overcome, the #1 priority is to provide patient safety throughout the construction process.

What Are We Doing to Mitigate the Risk of Spreading Infections?

To mitigate risk associated with the spread of infection, healthcare construction professionals perform Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) prior to the start of each construction project. The ICRA addresses such questions as:

  • What is the project type and duration of the work?
  • What is the patient risk group of the area being renovated?
  • What infection control precautions need to be taken given the answer to the prior questions?
  • Will surrounding areas be affected by the construction project?
  • What interim life safety measures will be needed?

Through performing an ICRA and using infection control (IC) containment strategies (barriers, negative air pressure, HEPA filtration, etc.) construction teams are enhancing patient safety and minimizing the risk of HAIs. Other best practices to perform on healthcare construction projects include:

  • Daily huddle of project team to review ICRA and ILSM
  • Safety “Toolbox Talks” for trade workers that focus on healthcare-specific risks
  • Mandatory ICRA-training for trade workers working on healthcare projects

Who is the Customer?

With “patient satisfaction” now being used as a metric for Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements, the professionalism and courteousness of construction workers in a hospital setting is even more important to the customer. It is our goal at Benike Construction to be an extension of the hospital staff while we are onsite for construction work.

We make it a priority to remember that most patients and families in a hospital setting are not having their best days and deserve our empathy. A great reminder is this video titled “empathy.” It provides an immediate perspective as to why we do what we do.

In broader terms, construction companies must recognize the true customer of healthcare construction – the patient. Although we are a General Contractor, we are key partner in keeping the patients safe.

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