In a recent blog, I asked how to prove the payoff of patient-centered design—what tangible benefits can be measured from its use? I shared a few research projects that shed some light on the ongoing benefits of putting the patient (and family) first in facility design, with results including higher patient satisfaction and a boost to the bottom line.

So how do you shape design to have these desired outcomes? What elements must be incorporated to create a successful patient-centered space?

The fact is, patient-centered design is more important than ever. With healthcare reform pushing for accountable care, the focus on quality has gone way up. And how patients will measure the quality of their care will likely be influenced by their surroundings.

A recent policy paper from McGraw Hill Research Foundation and HOK (New York) examines the impact design has on accountable care goals and, more importantly, explores how to integrate research into the process of improving both patient care and facility design.

The paper presents case studies from design research of hospital inpatient units. Here are a few quick takeaways on examples of what should be considered when designing inpatient spaces to support today’s modern care environment:

  1. Unit configurations and layouts—When considering which approach—from a race track configuration to a compact triangle—designers should measure which model creates an optimal environment for staff travel distances, patient safety, patient visibility and easy communication with staff, proximity of patient rooms to nurses’ stations, standardization in same-handed configurations, and use of on-stage/off-stage areas, along with the pros and cons for varying approaches to each.
  2. Decentralized nursing—While the traditional approach of using a centralized model has long been a design staple, research supports the move toward a decentralized (or possibly a hybrid of centralized and decentralized) stations that can improve staff efficiency, reduce walking distances, and increase the time nurses can spend with patients. However, one drawback may be a sense of isolation felt by the staff. And when laying out these areas, the paper also reminds that another consideration in this scenario should be the integration of health information technology in workspaces.  
  3. Family-centered care—Since patients’ health is often linked to the health of their family members, creating spaces where relatives can have a sense of self-efficacy and empowerment is a significant component of patient-centered design. The paper explores four key concepts to family-centered care: active participation of patients and family in the healthcare decision-making process; relevant information provided to patients and their family to make those decisions; a choice offered on what level of participation is preferred in decision-making; and involvement on institutional issues, including facility design and delivery of care. Specific design elements supporting family-centered care include single-family rooms with family accommodations.

In the end, the paper offers two options for immediate action in using research to shape effective patient-centered design. The first is the use of pre- and post-occupancy evaluations to compare results of design approaches, identifying areas that need improvement and the cause of any issues that might come up.

Secondly, the group supports industry incentives and requirements for credible research during project delivery, pointing to the Environmental Design Research Association’s Certificate of Research Excellence (CORE) program that awards research and findings alongside their meaningful incorporation into project delivery.

To read the policy paper in full, please go here.