Healthcare designers and administrators alike value research. Neither wants to end up with a building designed on a whim, without a base of knowledge that supports the decisions that shaped it—from why the windows are glazed in a certain way to how operational flows are laid out.

So when it comes to patient-centered design, an unavoidable buzzword these days, a little evidence to back up the trend might be needed. Experts across disciplines project that a focus on the patient will be key going forward, as a way to boost both the bottom line and patient satisfaction in the face of healthcare reform.

As the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) points out in a recent issue of its Innovations Exchange, a move toward this model stands to also improve quality of services, safety, and employee retention. And studies show that’s not just conjecture.

AHRQ compiled three research studies that back up the claims. Here’s a synopsis of what they did and discovered. 

Study #1: Engaging Room Design and Distraction Techniques Comfort Pediatric Radiology Patients, Leading to Less Need for Sedation, Shorter Wait Times, Higher Satisfaction

What they did: To reduce the need to sedate its young patients, the radiology department at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC introduced a program that uses various techniques to distract and engage patients, including theme-based room designs (such as a beach room, where walls feature a boardwalk and beach scenes, an oxygen tank looks like a scuba tank, and a linear accelerator is disguised as a sandcastle) and multisensory elements, such as music, videos, and aromatherapy. 

How it paid off: The program was successful, resulting in 99% fewer sedations for pediatric CT procedures between fiscal years 2005 and 2007. This drop increased capacity, as well, allowing the CT department to increase scans by 15% over that same period of time. Meanwhile, both parents and staff reported higher levels of satisfaction. 

Study #2: Patient-Centered Hospital Redesign Leads to Low Infection Rates, Higher Patient Satisfaction, More Admissions, and Other Benefits

What they did: Griffin Hospital in Derby, Ct., underwent a renovation of its 100,000-square-foot inpatient facility while also building a new 49,000-square-foot ambulatory pavilion/cancer center, incorporating patient-centered design features to create a “homelike atmosphere.”

How it paid off: The hospital hasn’t formally quantified a direct relationship between its design and outcomes, since those outcomes may be related to other factors like staff performance or improvement initiatives. But administrators reported that they feel the new design has come with clear benefits. Among those are lower infection rates, fewer nurse calls, higher patient satisfaction, reduction in malpractice claims, an increase in patients, and better financial performance.

Study #3: Patient-Centered Redesign Improves Patient and Staff Satisfaction at Outpatient Cancer Center

What they did: The Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, incorporated patient-centered design elements—such as, natural lighting, plants and other nature elements, soft paint colors, and comfortable furniture—into a redesign of its outpatient facility.

How it paid off: Press Ganey scores rose for the facility, with patient satisfaction ratings moving from 86.5 in 2004 to 88.6 in 2009, despite a major construction project taking place during that same period of time. After first taking a dip, scores for the infusion area also saw a jump, from 85.9 in 2006 to an all-time high of 90.9 in 2009. Staff satisfaction improved, and hospital administrators attribute its most profitable year ever in 2008 in part to the redesign and expect it to continue to contribute to strong performance. 

Have you seen your patient-centered design projects result in tangible benefits? Share them with us here in the comments section, or email me at