Are Bad Hospital Designs Making Patients Sicker?

Dr. Dhruv Khullar of the Massachusetts General Hospital writes in the New York Times this week about the surprisingly bad design flaws that plague hospitals and in turn, their patients. Dr. Khullar cites various studies that detail how around 30% of intensive care patients acquire infections originating in hospitals and how housing patients in private rooms can reduce the risk of both airborne and surface contact infections. You’d might think that private rooms will greatly increase construction costs, but it’s possible that the price of “single-occupancy rooms is more than offset by the money saved because of fewer infections.”

Dr. Khullar also points out that design factors of current hospitals may lead to patient infections or falls (the positioning of sinks and toilets, difficult to clean surfaces, or slippery floors). Even simple methods to reduce noise, like installing sound absorbing walls or lowering the volume of staff conversations can help with patients’ sleep habits, which might also improve patient satisfaction and health outcomes. A classic study even cites that having a nice window view can even help with patient outcomes.