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Patient Care Addition Update • October/November 2008

Private Rooms Will Benefit Patients, Staff and Hospital

Our Vision for the FutureEven casual observers have probably noticed the formation of the dramatic glass curtain wall system that is quickly surrounding Northwest Community Hospital’s eight-story Patient Care Addition (PCA) along Central Road in Arlington Heights.

In fact, construction of the curtain wall is almost complete on the north side of the building, and its progress continues through October on the building’s west and south sides. Glass curtain wall systems help open the building to the outdoors and natural light.

Other progress on the hospital addition includes roofing, which is complete, as is the interior framing on the second, fourth and fifth floors. Plumbing and electric rough-ins are complete up to the sixth floor. Also nearly completed is installation of permanent power from ComEd.

The eight-story PCA will feature 200 private rooms. A growing body of research is creating a compelling case for the benefits of the private room environment,1 which was once considered just a luxury.

Patient safety

Findings suggest that patient safety in several areas may be improved with private rooms:

  • Our Vision for the FutureInfection rates: Available data indicates that single rooms clearly lower the chance of airborne infections by eliminating proximity to infected patients posed by semi-private or multi-occupancy rooms. In addition, it is easier to comply with hand-washing procedures in single rooms than in semi-private rooms where sinks may be shared.
  • Patient falls: Patients who fall incur physical injuries and other negative effects, and can have lengthier hospital stays because of it. Many falls occur when patients attempt to get out of bed unassisted or unobserved. Studies indicate that, because space is available in private rooms, family members are likely to spend more time with the patient and are present to assist them when they are getting in and out of bed.
  • Medical errors: Single rooms reduce the number of patient transports. This is important because it promotes continuity of care and reduces opportunities for medical errors – such as medication mistakes – because of the consistency of staff members who are involved in patient care. Reducing the patient transport rate also reduces nursing paperwork and administrative time, transport time and assessment time, while increasing direct nursing time without additional cost. It also reduces opportunities for hospital flow inefficiencies.
  • Length of stay and occupancy: Recent findings indicate there are a number of reasons why private room patients may experience shorter lengths of stay. First, they reduce the chance of hospital-acquired infections. And second, there’s the reduction in patient transports, which may reduce the length of stay.

Patient satisfaction

Jobs by nurses, physicians and other healthcare employees often require a combination of direct patient care, critical communications, charting, filling medications, access to technology and information, and other tasks.

While the majority of research around private rooms has been directed at patients, recent studies indicate that a combination of private room environments and other therapeutic design principles can make the jobs of staff members much easier, raising satisfaction.

Staff satisfaction leads to better staff retention, and hospitals with higher staff retention have experienced higher scores in quality measures.

Financial implications

Research is increasingly supporting the case that any premium construction costs for private patient rooms can be recovered through operational savings.

In the past few years, hospitals that have converted to private rooms are sharing measurable results that reflect impressive operational cost savings. For example, improvements in infection rates, patient falls, patient transport rates, medical errors, and patient and staff satisfaction have all contributed to operational savings.

In addition, studies indicate that constructing private rooms may contribute to increased patient market share and increased patient volumes.

1 Much of the information provided and research cited for this article are derived from the 2005 document, “White Paper: Private v. Semi-Private Rooms,” by Kelly Doyle and Scott Nelson of the architectural, interior design and engineering firm OWP/P. OWP/P is a partner in Northwest Community Hospital’s Renaissance Project, which includes the Patient Care Addition. Used with permission. For more information, visit

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Last Updated 04/10/2009