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Hospital Structure and Patient Care | How the Two Relate

nurses station improving hospital structure and patient careBeing in a hospital is stressful, regardless of whether you’re there due to personal health problems or those of a loved one. What’s worse, the look, feel and operations of a hospital can add to that stress and uncomfortable nature of the experience. With a new take on design and a bit of restructuring, hospitals can become a place of comfort rather than contempt.

Hospitals around the world are making strides to enhance the design of facilities’ to feel more like home. These improvements include more space per patient, modern furnishing and updated color palettes throughout. One worry is whether these improvements will sacrifice the level of safety at the facility.

Don’t sacrifice safety for aesthetics

Safety of patients and staff is a big concern within hospitals. The four main areas for security concerns include emergency departments, waiting rooms, pediatrics departments and psychiatric facilities.

In fact, Tony York, chief operating officer of HSS, a healthcare-focused security firm in Denver, said there were at least 206 gunshot incidents at health care facilities between 2006 and 2012, according to news reports’ data.

How can the design be improved without sacrificing safety? Don’t think about the security of your facility after it’s too late—plan out your establishment with safety measures in place in advance.

A UnityPoint Health facility in Rock Island, Illinois, has taken on that challenge.

In the event that a patient becomes agitated and unstable at UnityPoint Health facility, a metal door separates the patient from supplies and others. The room the patient is in contains soft lights, comfortable furniture and a saltwater fish tank to help create a peaceful environment and encourage stability.

What is a typical hospital structure?

There are many different positions within a hospital’s organization to make the facility operate properly. Typically, hospitals are set up with a hierarchical and divisional structure. This structure means various levels of staff —ranging from high- to lower-level positions—are responsible for others within their respective divisions.

While the hierarchical structure works well for accountability purposes, it can often create disconnect with many broken lines of communication throughout the organization.

The outdated structure of health care has lasted for years because each piece of the organization completes a complicated puzzle. Each of the divisions operates in its own silo, with little integration across the organization. This, among other downfalls such as fee-for-service payment methods, duplication of services and lack of quality measures leads to subpar patient care.

Provide adequate work areas for staff members

A common feature within hospitals is the nurses’ station. These silos create a general meeting place for physicians, nurses and support staff. While this seems convenient, sometimes these stations can do more harm than good.

With so many staff members coming in and out, phones ringing continuously, and pagers buzzing aloud, the nurses’ station can be a difficult place to focus and communicate. Noise level is something that affects both patients and staff.

Controlling the noise level makes staff more focused, productive and suppresses the feeling of pressure. For patients, reducing the noise allows them to rest and recover more comfortably during their stay.

Having only one area for nurses to retreat to can also create problems in terms of proximity to patients. This requires much more walking and time being wasted making multiple long trips.

Because of this, many hospitals are eliminating single nurses stations and implementing multiple decentralized stations and charting substations. These stations are located outside patient rooms within individual units, allowing nurses to stay nearby and provide care more quickly. For this to be successful, nurses’ resources must be readily accessible in the decentralized stations.

Ways to improve hospital structure and patient care

Separate into Integrated Practice Units (IPUs)

Having the organization broken into divisions is helpful, but it doesn’t break services down quite far enough. Organizing your facility into IPUs allows an integrated staff to focus on specific conditions and communicate appropriately with patients and their families. IPUs usually result in better patient outcomes, lower costs and faster treatment.

Track quality measures

Monitoring the results of care is an important factor that many hospitals don’t do adequately. Without proper tracking, the facility is unaware of specific successes and areas in need of improvement. Measurements should be conducted for each specific condition so the results are as adequate and relevant as possible.

Consider partnering with post-hospitalists

Post-hospitalists specialize in providing geriatric, rehabilitation, and chronic care patients in post-hospital and long-term care environments. Having a post-hospitalist to work with your hospital ensures patients receive streamlined, coordinated care that complements each other.

General Medicine, The Post-Hospitalist Company provides specialty care to help organizations lower health care costs, align with changing regulations and improve patient care. Contact us today to see what benefits our post-hospitalists can bring to your facility.

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Tom Prose