"We do health services research together," emphasises Dr Thomas Bartkiewicz, Medical Director of the hospital. "The important question for us here, for example, is: how can we convert a normal patient room into an intensive care room?" In the research and study laboratory, it is possible to recreate everyday hospital life and train various case constellations through the use of augmented reality. "In a forward-looking and sustainable way, we want to advance translational research and thus set the stage for further activities in the training and qualification of medical staff," says Dr Bartkiewicz.
Avoiding infections with clever room planning
Even though the patient room has always been at the centre of hospital construction and hygiene, its importance has come to the fore in recent years - due to the increase in hospital infections with multi-resistant pathogens and not least due to SARS-CoV-2. Among other things, clever room planning should now help to prevent the transmission of dangerous germs. That's why the new research laboratory only looks like a normal two-bed room in a hospital at first glance: because in the patient room of the future, the beds are opposite each other instead of next to each other and there are two bathrooms. This division prevents cross-contamination and contact infections, which can happen when two people use the same wet room. The researchers have also placed six disinfectant dispensers along the work routes of the nursing staff. The scientists also thought of a special lighting design - from very bright during rounds, to warm colours during rest periods, to a light strip that is activated by sensors when patients get up at night.
"In the future, architects planning healthcare buildings will have to deal with the central question of how to create optimal conditions for patients and hospital staff while at the same time ensuring flexibility in operation," says Dr. Wolfgang Sunder, project manager at the Institute for Construction Design, Industrial and Health Care Building (IKE) at TU Braunschweig. "In doing so, we have to consider relevant topics such as infection prevention, comfort or digitalisation in an interdisciplinary way. So it's not nearly enough for medical professionals to look at the topic only from their perspective or for us to look at it only from the architectural point of view."
Automated cleaning processes
In addition to architecture, the research laboratory focuses on functional surfaces and materials. Bio-based surfaces that are easy to clean minimise the risk of high germ contamination. Surfaces that change colour as soon as they are contaminated with germs could also be used. "Analysis, adaptation and optimisation of surfaces as well as the use and development of new sustainable materials are central starting points for preventing the transmission of germs in hospitals and protecting patients from infections," explains Dr Kristina Lachmann, project manager at the Fraunhofer IST. "We are taking a holistic approach by, for example, identifying hotspots and using digital methods to develop and adapt efficient environmentally friendly cleaning processes." Through automation and the integration of modern sensor technology, workflows and processes can be made more effective and economical, and staff can be relieved.
The project is scheduled for five years with an option for extension and will take into account the constant change in medical care. Industrial partners from the healthcare sector are also involved in the development of the patient room. In this way, the findings from the research and study laboratory can flow directly into the planning and construction processes of healthcare buildings, be transferred into the professional practice of hospitals and be used in the development of corresponding products.