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OM in the News: Hospital Patients May Feel Better Already in New Hospital Layout

August 23, 2014

hospital3Can good hospital layout help heal the sick, asks The New York Times (Aug. 22, 2014)? The University Medical Center of Princeton realized that it had outgrown its old home and needed a new one. So management decided to design a mock patient room–similar to the process we report in our video case study in Chapter 9 (called Laying Out Arnold Palmer Hospital’s New Facility). Medical staff members and patients were surveyed. Nurses and doctors spent months moving Post-it notes around a model room set up in the old hospital. It was for just one patient, with a big foldout sofa for guests, a view outdoors, a novel drug dispensary and a bathroom positioned just so.

Equipment was installed, possible situations rehearsed. Then real patients were moved in from the surgical unit — hip and knee replacements, mostly — to compare old and new rooms. After months of testing, patients in the model room rated food and nursing care higher than patients in the old rooms did, although the meals and care were the same. But the real eye-opener was this: Patients also asked for 30% less pain medication. Ratings of patient satisfaction are in the 99th percentile, up from the 61st percentile before the move. Infection rates and the number of accidents have never been lower.

There are also some fine points to the Princeton layout, like a sink positioned in plain sight, so nurses and doctors will be sure to wash their hands, and patients can watch them do so. It’s less antiseptic, cluttered and clinical than your average patient room, more like what you find in a Marriott hotel, anodyne and low-key, with a modern sofa under a big window; soft, soothing colors; and a flat-screen TV. “The room,” writes the Times, “is dignified, which matters to a patient’s mental health. And it works.”

This is a great classroom example of the role of layout in the service sector.

Classroom discussion questions:

1. Why is layout important in hospitals?

2. What are some of the OM benefits of this new layout?

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