Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 36
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
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UMCP Model Patient Room Displays Innovations in Healthcare and Design

Dilshanie Perera

A functional, fully equipped patient room that is a replica of those being built at the new hospital site is now in operation at the current location of the University Medical Center (UMCP) on Witherspoon Street. The Model Patient Room boasts innovative design elements targeted at making care more effective, efficient, and safe, and contributing to positive patient outcomes.

Former Mayor Marvin Reed was the first hospital patient to utilize the new room following a procedure, and gave the space glowing remarks. “It was beautiful. The room has very handsome colors, which are quite different from the usual antiseptic colors.”

A number of design elements were cited as making the experience of being a patient better. Mr. Reed said that “the windows are much larger than was the case in the old hospital, and the window sills are lower. Lying in bed, I was able to look out over the green trees of lower Witherspoon Street. It’s amazing how green Princeton is when you’re five stories up.”

Visitor seating was positioned in such a way that “they are at the right angle, so it is easy for them to sit and converse directly with you, even though you’re confined to bed,” Mr. Reed added.

The sink by the door in the entrance to the single-occupant room reminds all new visitors, including hospital staff, to wash their hands. This feature is geared toward reducing the transmission of infections.

Mr. Reed also made note of the wall-mounted high-definition television screen, which “was certainly a far cry from the usual TV that hangs from most ceilings in hospital rooms.”

To date, 10 patients have spent time in the model patient room, according to Vice President of Patient Care Services Susan Lorenz, who is leading the research project on analyzing how the room and its design elements serve to enhance the healing of patients, increase caregiver efficiency and productivity, and determine what contributes to healthy patient outcomes.

The process began about a year ago, when the hospital built a life-sized model of the room out of foam core and cardboard. “We had hundreds of our staff going through and making changes to the actual structure of the room, and based on their feedback, we built the room out.” Approximately 300 changes were incorporated into the room’s design prior to its being constructed for actual use. “The bathroom was probably the most redesigned area,” Ms. Lorenz noted.

In February, the hospital received a $2.8 million research grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to determine how physical space can contribute to healthcare efficiency.

Ms. Lorenz characterized the study as allowing the hospital to make changes and gather data for the 231 rooms that are being built at its new site in Plainsboro, and also “contribute to the body of knowledge in hospital design.”

Phase II of the research will involve a simulation study in the room, wherein various staff members will react to mock scenarios of three critical events: a patient’s heart stopping (code blue), medication administering, and a patient slip and fall. Participants will be surveyed to determine whether the room and its features contributed to facilitating any of the care process in those scenarios.

Phase III begins in December, with a targeted look at patient outcomes, patient use and perspective, and surveying nursing staff and physicians in comparing the different kinds of rooms. Ms. Lorenz expects the last phase to be about a year-long process.

Data gathered will be presented in the annual Healthcare Design Conference, and Ms. Lorenz expects that information about the completed study and findings will be disseminated in peer reviewed journals, as well as the popular press.

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