Private patient rooms have gained such widespread acceptance in the U.S. that it’s pretty much step one in any large-scale acute care renovation or new-build project. And arguments have been made—and evidence gathered—in support of single beds in other types of care facilities, as well, from senior care settings all the way down to NICUs.

The movement toward private rooms for NICU babies, in particular, has gained steam in recent years, and now there’s new research supporting claims that infants may in fact have better health outcomes in single-family environments. In the October 2014 issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, researchers from The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University describe their findings from data collected between 2008 and 2012 at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island.

Women & Infants provided an excellent opportunity for studying single-family rooms versus an open-bay setup, as it converted care from the latter to the former in 2009, creating (at the time) the largest single-family-room NICU in the country. Data from the open-bay NICU was collected on 151 babies over 18 months in 2008-2009, while similar data from the new layout was collected on 252 infants over 31 months in 2010-2012.

According to authors Barry M. Lester and Dr. James F. Padbury, the results showed that single-room infants fared better in terms of weight gain, the number of medical procedures required, and the experience of physiological stress and pain, among other factors. They stressed that new care models in the single-room configuration, including more family-centered approaches, play heavily into the findings. “If you build a single-family room unit and do not change how you care for the babies, it would be unrealistic to expect to see any significant improvement,” Lester said.

And the move toward more family- and patient-centered care continues to influence the design of patient rooms for adults, as well, one of many points discussed by Executive Editor Jennifer Kovacs Silvis in our upcoming special report on the state of the patient room and where it’s headed. More and more, this most personal of spaces in the acute care world demands our attention (hello, HCAHPS scores!). Single-bedded rooms, daylighting, and views of nature are now table stakes for inpatient design—so what’s next on the horizon? As caregivers shift into new roles to enhance patient experience and outcomes, it’s up to our industry to redefine and provide the best possible space to perform.