By Amanda Sounart, associate editor
Once thought to be a luxury, single-patient hospital rooms are now becoming more commonplace. New hospitals are even designing emergency departments and intensive care units to allow for more patient privacy. While the up-front costs may seem high, some hospitals are finding that the practice may end up saving money and increasing capacity.
Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, California, has recently embraced the idea of single-patient rooms with a new 315,000-square-foot, 334-bed expansion called the Stephen Birch Healthcare Center. Connected to the original Sharp Memorial hospital, the new structure features only single-patient rooms for in-hospital stays.
“The vision of Sharp Healthcare is the best place for patients to receive care, physicians to practice medicine and employees to work. Single-patient rooms meet all of those key components,” said Tim Smith, CEO of Sharp Memorial.
The single-patient room design will serve multiple purposes for the patients and the hospital. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that single-patient rooms maximize “safety, dignity, privacy and patient-centered care.” The study also noted that these rooms minimize patient transfers due to infection control guidelines.
“For the patients, there’s the healing aspect of having the privacy,” noted Smith. “There is also the quality measure of preventing infectious diseases.”
In an age of drug-resistant disease, infection control is more important than ever. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is just one example of a highly-contagious bacterial infection that could easily spread throughout a facility. Approximately 85 percent of patients who develop MRSA contracted it from a health care setting, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition to being contagious, MRSA is expensive. The International Society for Pharmacoeconomics estimates that MRSA infections cost hospitals anywhere from $3.2 to $4.2 billion annually.
Infection control guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) require patients who test positive for MRSA to be isolated in order to prevent contaminating other patients. In hospitals with multiple patients in one room, infection control isn’t always easy.
Smith noted that at any given time, the original building for Sharp Memorial hospital has 15-20 beds on hold due to restrictions on patients needing a single room. “We’ll be able to fit more patients in the same number of licensed beds. It will allow us to add volume in our hospital.”
For further infection control, the hospital has sinks located inside the door of each room. When a health care worker enters or exits the room, they can wash their hands without coming into contact with another patient in between. There are also built-in orange markers outside the doors to alert healthcare workers of any special guidelines when treating their patients.
In addition to infection control, Smith hopes that the single-patient room design will allow for health care workers to provide even better care to their patients.
“I think it will be a benefit for nurses in particular,” said Smith. “They will have the ability to focus on one patient at a time. It simplifies things since they only have to worry about one set of factors for that patient.”
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