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Prescribing a Patient-Centered Approach Can Boost Design Efforts

April 2015
Author: Lisa Ellis

Patient-centered care is a hot topic today. But do you know how to integrate this concept into your operations and settings? If not, you could be missing out on some key elements that can strengthen your organization, while enhancing your efforts to meet the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The latest generation of patients is more actively involved in their care than ever before, thanks to improved access to medical information online. In addition, patients carry an increasing financial burden when it comes to their medical care. As a result, they want more say in how they spend their hard-earned money.

One way that many healthcare organizations have responded to these growing challenges is by involving patients in their care and treatment decisions. This allows them to have a stronger say in everything from deciding what provider to use and where to access this care, to determining which treatment option is most suitable. Some savvy organizations also go beyond the basics and directly solicit their patients’ input in facility logistics and design decisions — and they are finding that the effort pays off in measurable ways, such as improved patient safety records and better outcomes.

One of the most interesting examples I’ve seen of this impact is at the University Medical Center of Princeton, located in Plainsboro, NJ. The facility used real patients to test some redesign options and discovered that functional layouts that consider patients’ needs, preferences, and comfort can actually help patients get better faster and ultimately reduce healthcare costs in the process.

Some of the elements the medical center incorporated into their recently-redesigned facility include private rooms (instead of doubles), enhanced space for increased comfort, pullout couches to accommodate family visits, easy-to-navigate bathrooms with well-placed handrails, and convenient sinks to encourage frequent hand washing. Incorporating such patient-focused measures has increased patient satisfaction ratings, reduced accidents and infections, and even decreased patients’ use of pain medications.

While some of these connections seem obvious, others — like the reduction in both perception of pain and the need to treat it — are more ambiguous. The explanation could be as simple as the fact that a patient-centered setting makes people more comfortable, helping them feel better mentally and physically. And although not every detail of the Princeton-affiliated facility has gone smoothly (for instance, nurses have had some quirks trying to make the design work from an efficiency standpoint), this example speaks to the overall value of giving patients a voice in the logistics of your healthcare processes and settings.

Taking a patient-centered approach to make your buildings and your operations live up to their full potential is a concrete way to demonstrate your commitment to healthcare reform while maximizing your return on investment. How’s that for a successful outcome?


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