Many people in New York are aware of the high rate of avoidable errors that plague hospitals here and across the country. Communication errors lead to unnecessary mistakes, records get lost or mixed up, and 5 percent of patients get sick just from being in the hospital. The problem is clear, but what about the solution?
While it is certain that there are many ways to address the numerous errors that can arise during any given patient’s stay in a hospital, some suggest that the best approach is to address the space in which the patient spends the most time: hospital rooms.
After World War II, hospitals began treating patients in private or semi-private rooms rather than in wards, where infection could presumably spread quickly. Since then, however, little innovation has been done in the way of the hospital room. With nearly 70 more years of knowledge and experience at our fingertips, however, there must be a better way to do things.
As it turns out, there is. The answer, says the director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation, is designing a room around the patient. This seems obvious enough, but few hospitals have taken that approach.
The ideal patient room, according to a prototype created at Mayo Clinic, consists of several features not found in today’s hospital rooms. To start, surfaces would be different. Today, sealants on floors can harbor bacteria that are harmful to patients. Instead, the prototype suggests rubber floors that would keep out bacteria, cause less noise, be less slippery and cushion potential patient falls.
Next, the wall behind the patient bed would contain equipment necessary for checking a patient’s vitals. Equipment would be easily accessible through panels on the wall. Ideal rooms would also incorporate a workstation with a sink near the door. When a caregiver walked in the room, the sink would glow red as a reminder to wash his or her hands. It would turn green when the caregiver has washed long enough to ensure disinfection.
These are just a few of the elements that researchers say would make for the ultimate patient experience. Hopefully hospitals in New York will consider implementing changes to their rooms. Not only could it keep patients safe, but it could save them money as well.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “The Hospital Room of the Future,” Barbara Sadick, Nov. 17, 2013