In 2006, the Center for Health Design's Pebble Project published an article titled "New Standards for Hospitals Call for Patients to Get Private Rooms." The article notes that because of evidence showing that shared patient rooms are linked to higher rates of health care-associated infections, medical errors and privacy violations, the days of private patient rooms being reserved as a luxury for privileged patients were coming to an end. According to results from Health Facilities Management's 2016 Hospital Construction Survey, to be published in February, that end has not yet come, although it is drawing nigh.
When asked which design features were being included in health facilities to improve the patient experience, 66 percent of respondents said they were converting their semiprivate patient rooms to private.
A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information shows that medical staff are in favor of the move. The study examined nurses' perceptions of single- vs. multiple-occupancy rooms, showing that most nurses lean toward the former.
"A majority of respondents in the four hospitals favored single rooms over double-occupancy rooms for the majority of the 15 categories, including the following: appropriateness for patient examination, interaction with or accommodation of family members, and lower probability of dietary mix-ups," the study shows.
Although evidence weighs in favor of single-patient rooms, an article in The Atlantic looks into whether shared patient rooms have any value. The writer describes the childbirth experience of a mother who delivered one of her children in an old-school maternity ward with several other mothers, and delivered another child in a private patient room.
"When asked where she would prefer to have her next baby, she replies unhesitatingly that she would opt for the old-world hospital,"the journalist writes. "Why? There she felt less alone. She could talk and bond with other patients. She felt like part of a community of mothers. 'It just felt so good being with all those other moms,' she says with a wistful smile."
The need for human connection is not lost on today's health systems. Furniture and space that accommodate overnight stays and provide room for family visits is a growing trend in health care design. In fact, nearly 50 percent of those who responded to the HFM 2016 Hospital Construction Survey say that their health facilities are building larger single-patient rooms of 200 square feet or more.