Meeting Patient Expectations with Holistic Room Design

Jun 18, 2018

hospital room design

While patient care is the primary focus for the healthcare industry, hospitals are in the unique position of acting both as healthcare and service providers. Since inpatient care involves patients staying overnight — the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported the average length of a hospital stay to be 6.1 days in 2016 — hospitals and their staff are focused on meeting patient expectations.

But what exactly is it that a patient needs and expects from not only their providers, but the hospital, as well? These questions are top of mind for many hospitals. Why? Because many questions on recent Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) surveys involve some form patient satisfaction, and studies have shown that “meeting the needs and expectations of patients is anticipated to improve responses to 72% (13/18) of HCAHPS questions.”

What Do Patients Want? And How Can Patient Room Design Help?

What patients want is a million dollar question for hospitals. Many U.S. hospitals are taking a “codesigning” approach to patient room design (i.e. designing with the input of former patients and their family members/friends). Room designs are also becoming more holistic in that nearly everything in the room, from the furniture to the entertainment devices, is there to fulfill patient needs and expectations during their stay.

A recent study in the Health Environments Research and Design Journal (HERD) identified, based on patient and family feedback, a few key expectations of patients:


Comfort is a wide-ranging expectation since the term means different things to different patients. The HERD study found that comfort generally came with the expectations of:

  • Personal safety and security

  • Personal space and privacy

  • Accomodations for patients and visitors

  • A place to rest and heal

The layout of a patient room is integral to a patient’s comfort. Patients reported that the positioning of their bed, whiteboards, TV and other objects made them more happy with their stay, and the most effective room layout allowed patients to:

  • Watch TV without having to crane their neck or position themselves uncomfortably.

  • Easily see out a window and into the hallway (to reduce boredom)

  • See the door so that they are aware of who is entering the room, providing a sense of security

  • Clearly see and be able to read communication boards without having to get out of bed

  • Reach their personal belongings without straining or getting out of bed

When it came to security and personal space, patients wanted their own room with a door that could be closed as well as a privacy curtain to shield them during procedures.

Access and Control

Access and control is a much less subjective topic than comfort, and most patients noted that they wanted control over as many aspects of their room. The HERD study noted that patients wanted to be able to control and have easy access to:

  • Opening and closing their room door, especially during the night to cut down on noise

  • The bathroom

  • Their personal items

  • Television

  • A phone

  • Outlets for charging devices

  • Lights

  • Temperature

  • Window coverings

Placing as many controls for utilities (as well as outlets) by the patient’s bedside gives them full access to many of these items. Patients also noted that they wanted a table surface (not the one they eat off) to be available for storing other items, such as bedpans, etc.


Finally, the HERD study also noted that patients want to feel connected to their family and friends, nature, what’s going on in the outside world, and their doctors. To address these concerns, hospital designers are building larger rooms so that patients can have family and friends visit and even stay overnight. Comfortable seating, up to and including couches that have pull-out beds, are being made available for visitors.

Architects and designers are also adding large windows to patient rooms to allow for plenty of natural light as well as nice views of nature.

What About Connecting to Doctors?

One of the most effective tools that allows patients to stay connected to their doctors are communication boards. These custom whiteboards allow doctors to write down and convey treatment information that patients can refer to even after the doctor has left the room. Patients want to feel like they are involved in and up to date with their treatment plan, and communication boards are a proven method for keeping patients in the loop.

But communication boards are not only helpful for patients. They also help families — who often aid in treatment decision and influence a patient’s perception of their care — feel more included in the entire process. Fostering communication between care teams and a patient’s family is an important part of the treatment process. A patient’s family offers support for patients and often have knowledge about their family’s medical history. When patients and their loved ones are well informed, there are usually significant increases in patient satisfaction and engagement as well as a lower likelihood of readmission after discharge.

Communication boards are an all inclusive tool that benefits patients and their families. To learn more how to include custom whiteboards in your patient rooms, contact VividBoard today.