Better hospital design can improve outcomes, patient experience

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Hospitals that improve their design can also improve outcomes and patient satisfaction, research shows.

Hospital design can play a role in both the patient experience and health outcomes, but it remains an area for improvement for many organizations.

Dhruv Khullar, M.D., a resident at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, writes in a column for The New York Times that research shows even simple design changes can improve or shorten a patient’s stay. Studies have shown that better design can reduce hospital-acquired infection rates and slash lengths of stay in the intensive care unit by 10%.

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The design problems are numerous. Hospitals are often noisy, and patients typically must share a room, which can make it hard to get needed sleep, Khullar writes. Patients with a roommate may also withhold information from doctors for fear the person on the other side of the curtain may overhear the conversation.  A private room could also reduce the spread of HAIs, he adds, and significantly improve the patient experience, as well.

In addition, a more thoughtful design could also reduce fall risks, according to Khullar. Slippery floors, dim lighting and toilets that are too high or too low to the floor can increase the chances of a fall. Decentralized nursing stations, which provide nurses with a better view of patients, could also benefit patients at risks for falls or other complications.