This month, Kaiser Permanente is launching a Global Health and Safety Initiative (GHSI) with a small kick-off meeting in Oakland, California. The Center for Health Design and Health Care Without Harm are partners in this important initiative, along with several other cofounders.

Our goal is to engage and join together healthcare organizations and hospital systems, group purchasing organizations, nonprofit organizations, architectural and engineering firms, academia, and industry and governmental organizations worldwide to build a social movement within healthcare. By bringing together these organizations, combining their resources, leveraging areas of expertise, and sharing best practices, a new level of focus can be put on improving patient safety, worker/workplace safety, and environmental health and safety throughout the entire healthcare industry.

Kaiser believes, and we agree, that significant improvements in patient safety, worker/workplace safety, and environmentally sensitive practices can and need to be made by healthcare institutions. They also think that there is a powerful synergy among these three safeties and that improving patient and worker safety, as well as the environment also improves the health of the communities served.

Kaiser is spearheading the GHSI and providing the seed money to get it going because it believes it has an inherent role and responsibility as a major purchaser and builder of healthcare facilities to find opportunities to reduce its environmental impact and help create a world where all can live healthy, satisfying lives within the means of one planet.

Initially, the GHSI has three objectives in mind:

  • Open-source sharing of information and best practices that improve patient, workplace, and/or environmental health and safety in healthcare settings.

  • Guidelines for group purchasing to transform the market and lead to safer and more environmentally sensitive products at competitive prices.

  • Research to document benefits, improvements, outcomes, and cost-effectiveness of various interventions.

The open-source sharing of information is starting with Kaiser, which plans to share its 180 health and safety-related design elements and proposed outcomes that have been developed for its Standards and Template Hospital Program. The goal of this program was to exceed regulatory and code minimums in the design of facilities when there was a compelling reason to do so. The design elements are organized into categories such as hospital infrastructure, general overall hospital standards, specific types of units, outpatient clinics, and materials. They address outcomes such as reducing clinical errors, reducing distractions and fatigue though design, decreasing falls, infection control, ergonomics, reducing toxic materials, improving air quality, and resource conservation.

Under the direction of The Center for Health Design, these 180 health and safety-related design elements are being organized into a searchable database that will be cross-referenced to existing evidence-based design research. We also plan to include data from The Center's Pebble Project research initiative in this database. By demonstrating its willingness to share its health and safety-related design specifications and proposed outcomes, Kaiser is setting an example for other healthcare organizations to do the same to help us create a learning community where information is shared openly and used as a foundation for change.

In addition to the database being created by The Center for Health Design, Health Care Without Harm is developing a Website that will provide one-stop shopping for healthcare providers, designers, construction, and design professionals to access tools, resources, and opportunities for engagement about healthy, safe, and sustainable healthcare design and operations. Both of these online tools will be an open source of information that will support the creation of a learning/knowledge community so that it can begin to share best practices, leverage their learning, and begin to identify interventions at the state, national, and international levels that will support the goals of the GHSI and begin to generate significant change in the healthcare industry.

The Center for Health Design is pleased to be part of this important initiative and applauds Kaiser for taking a leadership role in getting it started. It is a natural compliment to the work we are already doing through our Pebble Project research initiative and other programs to promote the use of an evidence-based design process to create healthcare environments and buildings that are healthier, safer, and more cost effective to operate. HD

The Center for Health Design is located in Concord, California.

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GHSI Cofounding Organizations:

Ascension Health

Catholic Healthcare West

The Center for Health Design

Cleveland Clinic Foundation

Geisinger Health System

Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati

Health Care Without Harm

Henry Ford Health System

Hospitals for a Healthy Environment

Kaiser Permanente

Lifetime Healthcare Companies

St. Joseph of Orange

University of Chicago Medical Center

University of Michigan Medical Center