Due to the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare industry has finally received a well-deserved kick in its pants. Patient outcomes and HCAHPS scores are now tied to reimbursements. And patients have more of a voice when it comes to their care. This has galvanized the healthcare industry into providing more strategic services.
The shift from treating illness to managing wellness is hailed by everyone. For starters, providers are offering better, or dare we say, more efficient outpatient care, which helps to minimize inpatient admissions and costs. And on the flip side, hospitals are now not only redesigning their inpatient services but their patient rooms as well — the goal being to improve the inpatient experience and environment.
When it comes to designing patient rooms, Cyndi McCullough, evidence-based design director for HDR of Omaha, Nebraska, considers a hierarchy of needs: “First is the safety of patients, which includes infection control. Second is efficiency for staff, and then it’s involvement of the family.”
Check out some of the design renovation ideas that hospitals are being advised to consider:
Single-occupancy space model: Once upon a time, it was difficult to transform, say a 200-bed double-occupancy facility into a 100-bed single-occupancy facility. Now that more procedures are being moved to the outpatient arena, hospitals have the space to offer private rooms that not only improve the patient experience—think less healthcare-associated infections (HAIs)—but also at a more economic rate. Let’s not forget that patient stay is also very short. Hence the need for these patient rooms to be high efficiency healing zones.
Ensuring infection control needs: HALs are a huge issue in hospitals. To minimize it, designers are now becoming more creative in utilizing materials to create environments that are easily cleanable and maintained. From high-performance upholstery to solid surface casework to plastic laminate or rubber flooring, the options are endless. But can patient rooms be also designed to be aesthetic? Apparently it’s quite possible to marry safety with efficiency. Rooms are now configured differently. Locating washing sinks at the entrance of a patient room so staff and visitors can wash up before greeting the patient is a fantastic idea. Or how about a pull-out sofa for a new dad who wants to spend time with his family post-delivery! It’s considerate little things like these that are revolutionizing care in hospitals.
Creating flexible spaces: In the past, hospital spaces were designed for a specific purpose. Once they were shelved, these areas were either converted into administrative offices or could no longer be repurposed.
The new challenge for designers: Create spaces that can flex well into the future. Some design recommendations include using a code minimum square footage for critical care rooms and adding on from there. Another idea is to design in larger door widths to accommodate ICU-level and/or bariatric beds. Add enough infrastructure within the ceiling to support patient lifts and a configuration that allows observation from the corridor.
Technology as part of care: Mobile health solutions are the future of healthcare. It is predicted that healthcare will be more closely intertwined with technology when it comes to care delivery. From patients wanting to be more plugged into their lives to medical systems—from the electronic medical record to the IV—becoming integrated, tech offers the possibilities of more control to the patient experience. To answer this trend hospitals need to have a highly efficient IT infrastructure.
Ultimately the overall goal in designing the perfect patient room is to keep patients and staff safe, and maintain patient and family satisfaction…in short, improve outcomes.
Here’s what John Kouletsis, vice president of facilities planning and design for Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, California, has to say “We believe strongly that the patient room is where the family (or the care advocates), the patients, and caregivers come together as a single team. The room needs to accommodate that and it needs to encourage that.”
Amen. (image via Shutterstock)