Few experiences are more difficult than having to endure a hospital stay. But unlike in years past, you can now educate yourself on both healthcare providers and facilities, much like you would for any product or service.
These days, free online resources allow you to compare hospitals across a wide range of criteria, as well as read patient reviews. That, along with federally-mandated healthcare quality report cards, have hospital administrators making great strides in the quality of care they provide.
This is where a hospital’s physical design becomes a crucial element of patient health, comfort and well-being.
“The biggest risks for patients during a hospital stay are exposure to possible infections, medical errors and falls,” said Joan Suchomel, president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Academy of Architecture for Health. “Good hospital design can reduce these risks. For example, installing a dedicated hand-washing sink near the entrance of patient rooms improves hygiene. Proper lighting and layouts reduce potential distraction during preparation of medications to help prevent drug administration errors. Well-placed handrails, the space to limit clutter, and flooring materials that reduce slipperiness and unevenness will help prevent patient falls.”
Others design considerations that architects employ are done to specifically address concepts for effective caregiving, reducing patient stress and pain levels, and creating safer and more hygienic rooms and healing spaces. For example, it has been proven through research that views of nature reduce stress—and patients with less stress feel less pain and don’t need as much pain medication.
In addition to the capabilities of doctors and nurses, the actual space within a healthcare facility can influence patient healing rates, decrease the length of hospital stays, and even impact something as basic as a good night’s sleep. And now, hospitals are financially motivated to offer patients the best level care possible, as patients often make decisions based on a host of ratings and reviews that are now publicly available to them.
Suchomel suggested the following questions to consider when comparing hospitals:
- How does an institution perform on quality measures like success rates and patient outcomes?
- Has the hospital been cited for lack of compliance in any areas?
- What do patients say about their care on ratings sites?
Being an educated consumer makes good financial sense if you are shopping for a car or life insurance, and the stakes are even higher when it comes to healthcare.
Fortunately, there are now a multitude of resources available to arm you with the information you need to make the best decision for your particular medical condition or issue. And there has never been a greater priority placed on ensuring hospital design results in a safe, clean and peaceful healing environment.
—Robert Silverman is the editor-in-chief at Statepoint