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Patient-centered design for hospitals

Building a hospital around patients offers benefits

As hospital construction has held steady during the downturn, more administrators and healthcare leaders are weighing the benefits of patient-centered design.

“We believe patient-centered design is going to lead to outcomes that would be probably less expensive,” said James Kolb, AIA, design principal of Gresham, Smith and Partners, an architectural firm. “Imagine the implication of reducing the average length of stay or reducing the rate of readmission or if you have to move a patient to more of an outpatient environment because they are more active in their care.”

[See also: Hospital design competition results in a surprise]

While there is some overlap between patient-centered and evidence-based design, a patient-centered approach uses design principles that continuously try to factor in the patient experience and their satisfaction.

“The design-centered approach will continue to take hold within the facility design environment,” said Paul Strohm, AIA, healthcare director at architectural firm HOK. “More and more hospitals and architects will continue to implement ideas about what this means into their building projects.”

Strohm said HOK is tracking environmental performance metrics such as patient satisfaction, nurse walking distances, falls and near falls, etc. “These design factors are contributing to better patient outcomes at reduced costs and contribute to improving a hospital’s HCAHPS scores,” said Strohm.

“The results will be studied and compared against baseline statistics and shared among design professionals and hospitals," he added. "As a result, in the future we will develop higher-performance physical environments that benefit patients and healthcare organizations.”

Estimating the actual pay off for building a hospital that has been designed around patients versus more traditionally-designed hospitals is hard to do said Adam Higman, vice president at Soyring Consulting, a Florida-based healthcare consulting firm. Higman said that facilities built today tend to have the same footprint as those built 20 to 30 years ago, but have half as many beds. “The price on a new facility is certainly going to be 20-25 percent more than the old one just because of finish work and size,” he said. “Really, given the percentage, it is hard to calculate because your capacity is so much less than it was before. The equation has kind of changed entirely.”