This great irony has always existed in hospitals, whether they are in New Jersey or anywhere else: They are at once facilities where people go to get better while at the same time being environments marked by heightened risk factors that can imperil the health of patients.

That dichotomy has been often noted. A 1999 Institute of Medicine report termed as a “landmark” study stated that close to 100,000 people die inside American hospitals annually from preventable medical mistakes visited upon them after they are admitted. More recent studies have ratcheted that number up far higher, noting fatalities resulting from surgical errors, medication mistakes, facility-acquired infections and other acts attributed to negligent care.

What can be done to combat that? Commentary on the medical industry often focuses on things like checklists, surgical-team timeouts to discuss patients, increased reliance on well-constructed electronic health records systems, and better communication between medical professionals and those they care for.

New findings from England instantly applicable to American hospitals suggest that a bit more attention to equipment design might also pay big dividends in promoting safety.

Consider the CareCentre, for example. It is a device described as a “single, free-standing station” that was developed by a team of designers following their close scrutiny of doctors and nurses as they went about their rounds in a medical facility.

The device offers a decidedly low-tech yet highly promising solution to many in-facility issues that contribute to preventable mistakes. A CareCentre can be placed in every patient room, serving as a single source that houses important items such as gloves, aprons and hand sanitizers. The device also has a portable medication cabinet, a waste receptacle, slot for disposing of used needles and space for making patient notes.

The designers believe that simply having such a one-stop, widely utilitarian device at hand for medical use can help doctors focus better and reduce distractions.

The CareCentre was developed through a research effort designated as DOME, an acronym meaning “designing out medical error.”

Source: Co.Design, “Using good design to eliminate medical errors,” Eric Jaffe, Nov. 11, 2013