Hospital Room of the Future Debuts at UMCP
Aug 17, 2010
The hospital patient room of the future is on display - and in use - in Princeton, New Jersey, providing lessons that stand
to benefit hospitals and patients nationwide.
Princeton HealthCare System (PHCS), which is building a new hospital in
Plainsboro, NJ, to replace its downtown Princeton facility, has taken
the extraordinary step of building a fully functioning replica of the
new hospital's proposed patient room in its existing
Over the coming months, the newly-completed Model Patient Room at
University Medical Center at Princeton will be put to the test with
actual patients to determine how the overall configuration of a hospital
room - as well as countless details relating to the
types and placement of materials, equipment and furnishings - can
improve patient safety and comfort, health outcomes and the efficient
delivery of healthcare.
PHCS will study how a room's design impacts events such as medication
errors, hospital-acquired infections, patient slip-and-falls, as well as
the satisfaction of patients, their families, hospital staff and
The answers will not only influence how rooms are built at the new
hospital, but potentially prompt a rethinking of hospital room design
nationally. Funded by a $2.8 million research grant by the Robert Wood
Johnson Foundation, the Model Patient Room initiative
is part of The Pebble Project, a program of the national Center for
Healthcare Design that promotes research on how the physical spaces of a
hospital can contribute to patients' healing and improved healthcare
"This room is an interactive learning laboratory for testing, refining
and discovering ideas that will benefit patients and improve the
efficient delivery of healthcare," said Barry Rabner, president and CEO
of Princeton HealthCare System. "What we learn from
this project will not only be of use to our hospital, but to others who
are in the process of building or renovating hospitals."
The lessons could spread quickly as United States hospitals continue to
build an astonishing amount of new infrastructure as they expand and
renovate aging facilities.
Construction spending for healthcare projects has remained at
historically high levels despite the economic downturn, approaching $50
billion in 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Analysts expect
that amount to top $60 billion by 2013.
PHCS's new $447 million hospital, to be called University Medical Center
of Princeton at Plainsboro, is being constructed about three miles from
University Medical Center at Princeton, which it will replace when it
opens in early 2012.
While mockups of new hospital rooms have been built before, it is
extremely unusual - if not unprecedented - for such a mockup to be built
within an existing hospital, used by actual patients, and studied as
part of a carefully designed research program.
Constructed on a busy patient floor, side by side with more traditional
hospital rooms, the mock patient room at PHCS is allowing for real-time
research in real-life conditions, while its performance is compared with
the performance of existing rooms.
The mock patient room as it is now designed and equipped is already the
product of more than a year of preliminary research. The room took shape
in its first phase with foam core slabs that could be easily moved to
identify the optimal configurations for the
walls, the bathroom, the bed and major room furnishings. Ideas and
experimentation in the placement of equipment and supplies soon
This preliminary phase produced a number of innovations and refinements
that have been incorporated in the completed mockup, said Susan G.
Lorenz, RN, DrNP, vice president of Patient Care Services for PHCS, who
is leading the research project.
For example, patient falls and fall-related injuries are a serious
problem in all hospitals, and research shows that they often take place
as people attempt to move themselves to and from their bathroom.
In response, the mock patient room has been designed with the bed near
the bathroom and along the same wall, and with a touch-sensitive
handrail connecting them that lights up when patients take hold of it.
The use of health information technology is also being closely studied
in the mock patient room to encourage greater use of bedside computers
and tablet devices that allow doctors and nurses to conduct their
"charting activities" in the presence of the patient,
rather than at a computer terminal in a corridor or nurses' station.
"We're seeking specific design solutions for common clinical problems
and issues, as well as ideas and innovations that promote relaxation and
healing, and make the experience of being in a hospital easier on
patients and families," said Lorenz. "This room
provides an unprecedented opportunity for Princeton HealthCare System
to play an important role in improving clinical outcomes, patient safety
and satisfaction, and care-giver efficiency. This information will be
of service in our own hospital and in others
that will learn from our research."