Single patient rooms: Reduce hospital-acquired infections and care costs

Hospitals seeking to reduce the risk of infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus should look to an unlikely source: room design.

A single-patient intensive care unit (ICU) room design reduces the risks of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), cutting care costs enough to more than cover the construction expense, according to a study published in the Journal of Critical Care.

Researchers, led by Hessam Sadatsafavi, Ph.D., of Cornell University, analyzed costs associated with single rooms or conversion of multi-patient rooms to private ones, factoring in both initial construction costs and long-term maintenance expenses, and then calculated their internal rate of return. The researchers found private room construction had a 56.18 percent rate of return, considerably more than the rates healthcare organizations require before a project is considered feasible.

The investment makes even more sense when compared with the cost of treating HAIs as well as the associated financial penalties, Sadatsafavi said in a statement from Cornell. "You have to spend additional money to treat the patients that acquired infection, as it would increase their hospital stay, and to contain the sickness--powerful cleaning supplies, support services," he said. "Single-patient ICU rooms reduce the cross-transmission rate and avoid extra medical costs to contain infection, and our research showed that these savings offsets capital costs."

Sadatsafavi and his team used a research model that accounted for potential HAIs and ICU occupancy rates and compared them to the investment risk of new construction and operating expenses. Nor is this the first research suggesting hospital design can factor into clinical outcomes; a Montreal hospital similarly reduced HAIs through the use of single patient rooms, cutting them by more than half and slashing ICU lengths of stay 10 percent, FierceHealthcare previously reported. 

To learn more:
- read the study abstract
- here's the statement