Private Rooms are New Standard in Updated Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities

July 20, 2006
Guidelines improve patient healing and lower long-term costs for hospitals

With mounting evidence that shared hospital rooms contribute to medical errors, higher infection rates, privacy violations, and harmful stress for patients, the updated Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities calls for single-patient rooms in medical/surgical and postpartum units to become standard for all newly constructed hospitals. This is the first such recommendation since these guidelines were originally published by the federal government in 1947. Updated every 4 years by the Facility Guidelines Institute (FGI) and published by the Washington, D.C.-based American Institute of Architects (AIA), the guidelines are currently used by more than 40 state governments to regulate hospital licensing and construction.

2006 Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities highlights include:

  • Private rooms for acute medical/surgical and postpartum patients in new hospital construction. 
  • New sections on intermediate care units, observation units in emergency departments, and skilled-nursing units in general hospitals. 
  • Strengthened information on the Infection Control Risk Assessment process. 
  • New chapters on urgent-care facilities, gastrointestinal endoscopy facilities, psychiatric outpatient centers, renal dialysis centers, office surgical facilities, and small primary-care hospitals. 
  • New language on assisted-living facilities, hospice facilities, and adult day health care facilities. 
  • New appendix language on green architecture and surge capacity in emergency departments.

“These guidelines are focused on patient safety. The committee, where possible, used an evidence-based approach to conceive the best possible environment for patients to heal in,” says Joseph G. Sprague, chairman of the Health Guidelines Revision Committee. “Our thorough review concluded that private rooms lead to considerably less potential for disease transmission, greatly reduce medical errors, help prevent falls, and certainly allow for patients to sleep better. Patients will not only heal better, but they won’t end up spending as much time in the hospital.”

Scot Latimer, president at the AIA Academy of Architecture for Health, says, “Initial costs for all private rooms in hospitals will pay for themselves very quickly, and nursing units with private rooms are far less costly to operate. Hospitals will actually be able to run at a higher occupancy rate, as well as reduce the costs and safety risks that are associated with patient transfers.”

According to the AIA Consensus Construction Forecast Panel report in June 2006, healthcare construction, the second largest institutional sector, accounts for over 7 percent of non-residential construction activity and is projected to increase 6.3 percent this year, followed by an additional 5 percent next year.

According to the full AIA Consensus Construction Forecast Panel report: “These recommendations must be adopted by every state in order to achieve measurable improvements in recovery time from illness and injury, and to provide a safer, healthier environment for patients,” says Paul Mendelsohn, senior director of AIA state and local affairs. “We will work towards achieving uniformity in state health facility codes so that hospitals can offer a far more conducive healing environment and additional economic benefits.”

To order 2006 Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities, visit the AIA website or call (800) 242-3837, option 1.

This information was reprinted with permission from The American Institute of Architects, an organization whose members have worked with each other and their communities to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings and cityscapes. AIA members have access to the right people, knowledge, and tools to create better design, and through such resources and access, they help clients and communities make their visions real.

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