New hospital design keeps patient in mind, improves safety

Pushed by reimbursement incentives for patient satisfaction, along with local competition and public performance scores, hospitals are investing in new hospital design.

Healthcare is one of the few industries in which construction is booming. While commercial construction across industries declined 4 percent in 2011, healthcare construction grew 0.9 percent to $39.7 billion, Fast Company and Kaiser Health News reported.

Hospitals looking to expand or redo their facilities are facing Medicare reimbursements based on patient satisfaction scores, which account for 30 percent of performance scores. The payments have incentivized hospitals to switch from the semi-private rooms to entirely private rooms.

For instance, George Tingwald, an architect and physician at Stanford University Medical Center in San Francisco, said Stanford is expanding to add 144 hospital beds in all single rooms. Although counter-intuitively, "It costs less to operate a private room hospital," Tingwald said about reducing the risk for cross contamination between roommates. In some states, health codes require that all rooms be private on new buildings, Fast Company/KHN reported.

But it's not only patient satisfaction and infection control driving hospital redesign. Under evidence-based hospital design, as Blair Sadler, a senior fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and a former hospital CEO, called it, research has shown that the color, shape and layout of a hospital room can directly affect patient health and hospital savings. For instance, including larger single patient rooms, bigger windows, cleaner air systems and decentralized nurse stations could cost an extra $30 million for a $350 million, 300-bed hospital, but it could also yield about $10 million in annual savings, showing a return in only three years.

Modern hospital design also benefits staff.

"Evidence suggests having consistency in room layout makes it safer," Executive Director Scott Turner of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Children's Hospital told MedCity News. "We think standardization drives quality."

Children's Hospital took feedback from more than 500 hospital doctors, staff, patients, parents and community members before its slated opening in 2016 of the $292 million facility. The advisory councils concluded the new hospital should feel more like a hotel, rather than a hospital.

One of the requests from staff was to abandon mirror-image rooms. Although the adjacent rooms share pipes and wiring to save money, the mirror layout is like having the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car, MedCity News reported.

However, not all community members applaud modern architecture.

Built in 1975, Prentice Women's Hospital had some preservationists objecting to its demolishment that made national headlines.

"The former Prentice Women's Hospital was on the cutting edge when it was built nearly 40 years ago," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said this month, Art Info reported.

Despite ties to historic facilities, the public must adjust to new architecture in the interest of patient health and safety.

"A modern research facility requires modern design," the mayor said about building a new Prentice Women's Hospital.

For more information:
- read the Fast Company/Kaiser Health News article
- here's the MedCity News article
- see the Art Info blog

Related Articles:
Do hotel-like hospitals deliver patient-centered care?
Hospital construction booming
What patients want in a hospital
Johns Hopkins unveils $1.1B hotel-like hospital
Hospital room service boosts patient-centered care