Experts Say Hospital Design Has Profound Effect on Health Care

During session 301 at the U.S. News Hospital of Tomorrow forum, experts weigh in on the link between good hospital design and health care.

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Re-engineered emergency departments. Decentralized nursing stations and all-private rooms. Beds that measure vitals and feed patient information to nurses. These are the hospitals of the 21st century, and their design will have a "profound effect on health care," according to the panelists at "Designing Hospitals for 21st Century Care," part of the U.S. News Hospital of Tomorrow forum held in Washington, D.C., this week.

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"The Hospital of Tomorrow will most definitely look a little something like their facilities," said moderator Michael Morella, introducing the participating speakers. Among the highlights of the discussion:

  • Peter Butler, an associate professor and chairman of the Department of Health Systems Management at Rush University, said the hospital identified several key Office of Transformation staffers and told them: "For the next four or five years, you're out of a job. You're going to drive this renovation process." Now, the butterfly-shaped office has minimized noise in patient rooms and guaranteed great views of the city. Studies show that, post-renovations, nurses spend 50 percent more time in patient rooms than they did prior to renovations. It's a "big plus in our ability to deliver care," Butler said.
  • David Bailey, president and CEO of the Nemours Foundation, said that ongoing renovations are designed to "provide more than patient care." Immersion of children and families drove room design, and the hospital involved family and children who vetted design ideas. The result: A space that allows families to "function intact as families during a crisis." Children can paint their hospital rooms with different colored lights, they can control shades on floor-to-ceiling windows, and they're able to adjust room temperature themselves. There's a Clinical Logistics Center where vitals and other data are monitored in real-time. Nemours also aimed to use technology "as a means to provide compassionate, warm, safe care."
  • Sally W. MacConnell, Vice President for Facilities at Johns Hopkins Medicine, discussed the importance of light and color. The hospital has roof gardens and "great views of the Chesapeake Bay," and entry spaces are large with "beautiful lobbies." There's artwork in every elevator lobby, with impressive views of the outside world. "We also thought a lot about how to introduce kids to an O.R. that can be big and scary," MacConnell said. When kids look out the window in some parts of the hospital, for example, they'll see what appear to be superheroes cleaning their windows.

As the session wrapped up, Fauzia Khan, co-founder of Alere Analytics, reflected on the future of the "smart and wired hospital." "We have to look at not just the hospital, but how we can monitor the patients all the way from the hospital to the home," she said. "Care is moving to the patient – right by the patient, at their bedside, at home. We have to capture all that information, tie it together and make sense of it."

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