Building a Model Patient Room to Test Design Innovations With Actual Patients

A Princeton, N.J., hospital designs a safer, more efficient, more comfortable hospital environment

    • July 17, 2013

Dates of Project: February 2010 to November 2012

Field of Work: Designing safe, efficient, and comfortable patient rooms

Problem Synopsis: Numerous studies have shown that the configuration and ambiance of hospital rooms exert a significant impact on patient recovery and well-being, as well as staff efficiency and satisfaction. However, evidence for good hospital design has relied mainly on retrospective observations rather than experimental research.

Synopsis of the Work: A team at the Princeton HealthCare System worked to devise an optimal design for inpatient rooms at a new hospital: the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, N.J. The project entailed building a “functional model patient room” to allow the team to test design innovations with actual patients. The project helped support the burgeoning field of evidence-based health care design.

The room is “a larger, safer, and friendlier place for patients to recover, and for patients’ families to be with them.”—W. Thomas Gutowski, MD

Key Findings

  • The team made more than 300 changes between the initial and final design of the model room to improve the quality and safety of patient care and the work environment.

  • Patients and nurses reported significantly greater satisfaction with the model room, citing better temperature, lighting, ventilation, acoustics, and overall ambiance than in the standard room.

  • Construction crews installed 238 rooms based on the team’s final design in the new hospital, which opened in May 2012.

Improvements in room acoustics enhanced communication between patients and staff.

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To design a better hospital room, follow Princeton Med Ctr: build working model & test it on real patients

“When we first posed the idea of the functional model patient room project, we were met with skepticism at best. In fact, some even thought us crazy!”—Study Team