Aging, growing population spurs hospital redesigns

Changing demographics and industry practices have led to hospitals investing in new facilities and amenities based around patient-centered design principles, NPR reports.

For example, UT Southwestern's Clements University Hospital in Dallas uses double-paned glass in lieu of curtains to reduce infection risk, with an option to cloud the space between panes for privacy, according to the publication. The facility also has a distinctive W-shaped layout to reduce unnecessary walking by staff; thanks to this design, nurses have to walk no farther than the length of eight patient beds.

With tens of thousands of people moving to Dallas last year, simply upgrading existing facilities was not an option, according to CEO John Warner, M.D.

Healthcare construction spending has reached the tens of billions, according to NPR, especially as hospitals compete for aging baby boomers' business. "If I were a contractor, I would wake up every morning and thank God for the healthcare business," Allan Baumgarten, a Minnesota-based health policy analyst, told NPR. Healthcare reform is influencing hospital design as well, Baumgarten said. "As a result of the Affordable Care Act, there's a lot more emphasis on linking payment to measures of patient safety [and] measures of patient satisfaction," he said. This emphasis has led to amenities such as spa-like single rooms and state-of-the-art cleaning technology.

However, Baumgarten said, in many cases, the cost of these upgrades trickles down to employers, with North Texas facilities already charging insurers among the highest rates nationwide, according to the report.

The question of whether incorporating hotel-like amenities into hospital design actually affects patient outcomes has long been controversial among healthcare leaders, with critics arguing that while they improve patient experience, that is no guarantee of improved outcomes, FierceHealthcare previously reported. However, with an increase in chronic conditions, many healthcare leaders look to design as a way to improve not only outcomes, but population health.

To learn more:
- listen to the report (audio)