Individuals enter various health care settings seeking safe, high-quality care. Patients, as well as the individuals who provide care, access health care environments in the hope that they will function as structured settings that promote positive health outcomes. Nonetheless, the transmission of infections within health care settings presents complications that can negatively affect patient and institutional well-being.

Although numerous improvement efforts are ongoing, the prevalence of health care-associated infections (HAIs) remains a significant risk and cost within health care environments around the world. Because HAIs are identified as infections that arise specifically within health care settings, the continued prevalence of HAIs indicates a need for a better understanding of how aspects of the built environment relate to the transmission of infection, and what design, construction and operational modifications can be made in the health care built environment to support HAI prevention.

Since the health care environment plays such a central role in infection control and prevention, the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) teamed up with the Health Research & Educational Trust of the American Hospital Association, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, the Society of Hospital Medicine and the University of Michigan to create a new document as part of a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This document outlines ways that health care organizations can use the physical environment to reduce HAIs. 

“Using the Health Care Physical Environment to Prevent and Control Infection: A Best Practice Guide to Help Health Care Organizations Create Safe, Healing Environments” contains best practices, case studies, resources and information based on key research. It can be used by health care facility managers, architects, designers, construction professionals, infection preventionists, and anyone else involved in designing, building and operating health care facilities.

Based on peer-reviewed research, this document provides background information to help readers understand how the environment contributes to infection transmission in health care settings. Interviews and case studies are shared to illustrate actual infection prevention-related successes and challenges presented by the built environment. 

The document also provides additional key resources specific for each topic that readers may reference for regulations, guidelines and best practices along with brief summaries of the issues and an overview of best practices that are contained in the Quick Guides in the beginning of the document.

ASHE has created a web page providing access to the free PDF document and direct links to the Quick Guides.