5 ways to design a hospital that puts patients first

When University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center set out to build a better hospital, executives started with patients and their families. The result was the Rising Star Award-winning William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital in Dallas, which opened in December 2014.

Patient input guided architects and other planners to create an innovative design, wrote John J. Warner, M.D., CEO of the system's university hospitals, in an article in the Harvard Business Review. Their suggestions led to a facility that includes:

  1. A separate discharge exit with designated parking and a pathway that avoids public spaces, so patients don't have to leave through the main entrance when they don't feel or look their best
  2. More comfortable furniture in patients' rooms, based on options that families were able to try out and vote on in existing hospitals
  3. An application that allows secure videoconferencing with family, friends and hometown physicians via large, interactive flat screens in each patient's room
  4. Guest elevators that face the view of the street where guests enter and the visitor parking garage, which helps visitors stay oriented in the hospital
  5. The ability for guests to leave an electronic "Sorry I missed you" get-well card on the patient's in-room video monitor if the patient was unable to see them when they dropped by

Warner wrote that planning groups for the new hospital were led by faculty and staff who focused on the broader mission of patient care. Architects "were encouraged to listen, rather than talk, before they began to sketch," he said. 

By focusing on the patient view, those designing the new Dallas facility avoided what a Metropolis Magazine opinion piece called a common pitfall in hospital design. "There's a disconnect between those who design, plan, and furnish hospitals and the people who go there to be healed. Evidence-Based Design is a good start in reducing this divide," according to the article. Indeed, research shows that evidence-based hospital design can reduce the spread of hospital-acquired infections, shorten hospital stays and reduce pain, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Because of their unique challenges, patient-centered design is particularly important for children's hospitals to promote healing, reduce stress, and ensure patient and family safety and security, FierceHealthcare recently reported.

To learn more:
- read the HBR article
- here's the Metropolis piece