Joan Suchomel

CannonDesign’s Joan Suchomel has authored a piece for Medical Construction & Design entitled “Rising to the Challenge,” offering insights into how proactive preventative decisions can reduce the risk of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). Joan examines four key areas that play a significant role in preventing HAIs and hospital-acquired conditions (HACs), illustrating how design can positively influence patient safety and improve outcomes.

The piece shares real-world examples from two CannonDesign health projects that exemplify design strategies to address HAIs – Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) and MetroHealth Critical Care Expansion. The full article can be read here, starting on page 42.

The four core areas and key excerpts are outlined below.

Core Area #1: Behavior
Proper hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways to prevent HAIs and HACs. Although perhaps the lowest in cost to implement, ensuring staff compliance with infection control protocols might be one of the toughest to achieve. According to the CDC, “on average, healthcare providers clean their hands less than half of the times they should.”

Core Area #2: Operational
It is also important to understand the barriers that limit hand hygiene, and design to eliminate them. A recent study revealed that poor access to sinks is associated with decreased hand-washing compliance (“Impact of sink location on hand hygiene compliance after care of patients with Clostridium difficile injection: a cross-sectional study”), and that visibility of sinks can help improve hand hygiene habits.

Core Area #3: Material
In addition to proper hand-washing and operational practices, the proper specification of materials can fight the spread of HAIs. Decisions that lead to the elimination of curtains and reduction of upholstery, specification of hard, nonporous surfaces, and seamless flooring, or limiting horizontal surfaces all can influence HAIs.


Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) at CHUM help transport materials, reduce touchpoints and fight HAIs.

Core Area #4: Technology
Emerging technology is also a strengthening tool in the fight against HAIs. With the emergence of virtual reality, automation and other new technology, health systems are pursuing creative efforts to fight HAIs.

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