NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 20, 2009

Hospital room design can help reduce medical errors, infections and falls, as well as patient stress, according to results emerging from more than 1,500 studies, the New York Times reports.

For instance:

  • A study at Bronson Methodist Hospital found that hospital-acquired infection rates dropped by 11 percent when more single-patient rooms were added, with well-located sinks and better air-flow designs.
  • In addition, research from the Pebble Project -- an effort by the Center for Health Design -- found that lowering noise levels around patients improved self-reported sleep quality by nearly 50 percent, from 4.9 on a scale of 10 to 7.3.
  • Other studies have suggested that natural light can help with patient depression and that nature scenes can help lower reported pain levels.

Anjali Joseph, director of research at the Center for Health Design, says many new hospitals also are replacing centralized nurses' stations with smaller ones located near patients.  Insurance companies want some assurance that upgrades and new features will do more than just attract patients, according to the Times.

Susan Pisano, a spokesperson for America's Health Insurance Plans, says, "When a hospital makes a change -- buys a new machine, builds a new building -- they need to be prepared to discuss those changes with the people purchasing their services," adding, "They have to make the case that these changes will improve quality and safety and efficiency."

Source: Carol Ann Campbell, "Health Outcomes Driving New Hospital Design," New York Times, May 18, 2009.

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