Click for a FREE Health Insurance Quotes

Hospitals Spruce Up Designs to assist Patients, Families

Hospitals are traditionally considered as an interior designer's worst nightmare, bland brick structures on the outside, drab white paint and hard, tile floors on the inside.

In recent years, efforts to improve patients' experiences have led numerous hospitals to upgrade their surroundings with colors that are more appealing and even some of the comforts of home.

Nowadays, those remodels are going a step further, adding amenities designed to improve safety and help patients get well faster.

The renovations require hospitals, architects and designers to "rethink care delivery at its core," said Paul Strohm, senior vice president and health care director at Helmut, Obata & Kassabaum Inc., the St. Louis-based architecture firm. Strohm and his team are designing a hospital in Milwaukee, Wis., for Ascension Health of Edmondson.

A few changes are small ones. SSM St. Clare, being built in Fenton, added chair rails to help patients balance as they move about from the bed to the bathroom. BJC HealthCare is using kiosks to help admit patients at Progress West, its lately built hospital in O'Fallon, Mo.

Other improvements call for major investment. While most hospitals are implementing an electronic medical records system, many of the new facilities are finding ways to incorporate information technology into the design. In a few cases, that means equipping staff with laptops and creating workstations. Other hospitals are putting computers in each patient room.

The biggest changes, however, may be in philosophy.

In the past, hospitals had been designed with physicians and staff in mind. New designs focus on patients and their families. Private rooms, for instance, give patients more than privacy. They permit patients to control lighting, sound and temperature. They also give visiting families space to rest or spend the night.

All of the 158 rooms at SSM St. Clare will be private, 370 square feet and consist of "zones" for families, patients and staff. The family zone consists of bench seating, a table and a chair.

"It invites families to stay," said Sherry Haussmann, president of St. Clare.

There is also more built-in flexibility. Most rooms at new facilities can be transformed to care for more critically ill patients, even those in intensive care. Surgery space also has become more flexible, often adjoining outpatient surgery and same-day procedure rooms.

That flexibility is built into each room at the new Ascension Hospital. All the rooms can be configured to care for any patient. In addition, while some nurses wanted computers to set up work nearby or in patient rooms, others liked the traditional nursing stations. Ascension compromised by creating workstations in proximity to, but not directly in patient rooms.



Click for a FREE Health Insurance Quotes