Throughout the United States, hospitals are transforming themselves, demolishing semi-private, multi-bed patient rooms and replacing them with all-private rooms. Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge is at the forefront of this trend, and plans to complete the conversion to single-bed rooms by the end of this year.
The push to go all-private has been one of the major recent initiatives of Mount Auburn President & CEO Jeanette Clough, who identifies several factors that convinced her that this was an important goal.
She points to the overall patient experience, which, surveys show, is much better in a private room. Patients enjoy more privacy. They are able to control the level of noise and lighting in their own room, and do not have to tolerate their roommate on the other side of the curtain snoring or keeping the lights or television on throughout the night. Patients in a private room sleep better, which greatly contributes to the healing process.
Also, in a private room, medical confidentiality can be controlled. Patients are able to discuss very personal medical matters with their doctors and nurses, without concern about being overheard by roommates. Patients who are not distracted by worries about confidentiality generally listen more carefully to medical instructions, such as how to take their medications or how to perform medical procedures on themselves.
Infection control is more manageable in the private-room setting. Patients who have a contagious infection are much more likely to cross-contaminate fellow patients in a multi-bed room. Mount Auburn Vice President of Nursing Deborah Baker says, “Hospital-acquired infections occur, no matter how good hand hygiene is. It’s the environment, it’s bound to happen. The single-room model will reduce that.”
Ms. Clough strongly believes that accommodating the patient’s visiting family and friends, so that visitors feel comfortable, can be better accomplished with private rooms. “We wanted all of our rooms to be big enough to accommodate at least a cot or a lounge chair. Having someone with [the patient] for the majority of the time and having that person be comfortable…is very important to care.” The patient has “someone who can not only advocate for them, but really communicate with them.”
There are also financial incentives for Mount Auburn to go all-private. When patients have a more pleasant hospital stay, they score the hospital higher on patient satisfaction surveys. The survey results are reported back to the insurance payers, who adjust the hospital’s reimbursement, based on the level of patient satisfaction. Ms. Clough says, “All of that satisfaction is tied in some way, large or small, to all of the contracts we have, both on the commercial side and now on the federal side. Patient satisfaction with their care is truly seen as something that helps the healing process…the relationship there is important for the payers. They don’t want unhappy patients. Unhappy patients lead to unhappy outcomes.”
Despite the substantial construction costs, Ms. Clough believes it will have been worth it. As she told a group of hospital donors, “We are confident that, sooner or later, the private room will become the standard within hospitals. At Mount Auburn, we are pleased that we can lead the way.”