Most of us think of female chickens that run around a barnyard when we hear the word “hen.”  But in healthcare these days, HEN stands for hospital engagement network—something that 3,700 hospitals across America are participating in to identify best practices and solutions for reducing hospital-acquired conditions and unplanned readmissions.

Events targeted for reduction are:

1.       Adverse drug events

2.       Catheter-associated urinary tract infections

3.       Central line–associated bloodstream infections

4.       Injuries from falls and immobility

5.       Obstetrical related events, including early elective deliveries

6.       Pressure ulcers

7.       Surgical site infections

8.       Ventilator-associated pneumonia

9.       Blood clots

10.   Readmission to the hospitals within 30 days of discharge

Some may argue that the design of the physical environment affects all 10 of these events, but the ones most relevant are adverse drug events, injuries from falls and immobility, pressure ulcers, and blood clots.

As those of you familiar with evidence-based design research know, there are quite a few latent variables in the environment that affect outcomes associated with these events:

  •         Medication errors: lighting, acoustic design, work surface design, and unit design
  •         Injuries from falls and immobility: flooring, bathroom design, room design, nursing station design, space for family, lift equipment
  •         Pressure ulcers and blood clots: lift equipment, furniture

There are 26 HENs nationwide, formed under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Partnership for Patients initiative that was announced in 2011. Their goals are to reduce hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent and unplanned readmissions by 20 percent, by the end of 2013. 

Many are making progress toward those goals, but very little information has been released yet. 

And my guess is that not many of them are focused much on the design of the physical environment in their process improvement.  But they should be.

How can those of us in the healthcare design industry bring it to their attention? By becoming advocates, that’s how. 

 If your hospital or hospital client is in a HEN, the simplest way is to make it part of the conversations you have with colleagues and project teams.

Find out who is working on the HEN initiative and forward information to them about how building design can impact outcomes (the EBD Glossary published by The Center for Health Design has some great charts that explain the link between environment and outcomes).

Learn what they’re doing to improve those 10 events and help them make the connection to the built environment.