How a hospital would smell if it were truly patient-centric

My husband recently had to have his appendix out. His care was mostly good: The surgeon was excellent and he knew better than to accept the lunch that food service tried to feed him a few hours before his surgery. One bad part of his experience was his roommate. The man monopolized the bathroom, left […]

My husband recently had to have his appendix out. His care was mostly good: The surgeon was excellent and he knew better than to accept the lunch that food service tried to feed him a few hours before his surgery.

One bad part of his experience was his roommate. The man monopolized the bathroom, left the TV on all the time and went outside to smoke.

When we realized that something was really wrong – his pain was not going away – we chose to go to the ER at a hospital in the next county. I had received good care there and their quality metrics were slightly better than the hospital closest to our home. My husband said that if he could have been assured of a single room, he would have gone to the closer hospital. I pointed out that when you need emergency surgery, a private room is not at the top of the priority list.

Writing on the Patient Voice Institute blog, Pat Mastors said that during her daughter’s recent hospital stay, a private room and a bedside chair that reclined flat were two of the most important features of the room. She reminded everyone that quality care is much more important than any other aspect of a hospital:

It frustrates me when people see high-end amenities as the best indicators of patient-centered care. If you rate your hospital poorly because you don’t like the mashed potatoes, trust me, that’s the thing they’ll spend money on fixing. It’s sure a lot easier than rooting out the true arch-enemies of patient-centered care: Ego, Inertia, Agenda and Excuses. Do you really think free slippers trump having a doctor who listens? Wake up, patients! After you’re all better, blessing that nurse who held your hand at 3 AM when you were terrified, you can plan a trip to that 5-star hotel with the 600-thread count bedsheets.

I have heard predictions that soon all hospital rooms will be single rooms. The added stress of sharing a room with a stranger does not contribute to the healing process apparently, not to mention the risk of infection. Private rooms would be a big improvement, but Mastors has several ideas about how to make a hospital stay truly patient-centric from the design of the physical space to access to information:

  • Patients and families can see and question their charts any time. Their treatment plans are made and modified together with the medical team. Religious preferences, spiritual needs, even hobbies, are accommodated to the greatest extent possible.
  • Every patient unit has a real, full-size kitchen, so families can actually cook there and sit down to a meal with the patient. Visiting hours are 24/7. Even visits by the family dog can be arranged.
  • In the morning, volunteers bake goodies in the ovens. The smell of baking breads and cakes in the halls sure beats . . . you know, other hospital smells.
  • There are no laundry carts, IV poles, computers on wheels, etc. in the halls outside patient rooms. It’s all housed away from view. A nurse’s station, meantime, is visible from every patient room. The cafeteria food is all fresh and locally sourced whenever possible.
  • To maximize patient privacy, the ICU wing is built in a big horseshoe pattern: nursing functions in the inner ring, private patient rooms in the next ring, and family waiting areas along the outer perimeter.
  • Any patient worried about losing their hair from cancer treatment can pick out a wig of their choice at the hair salon, free of charge.

[Image from flickr user Felipe Venancio]