All in the Details

Patient room design details matter more than you think. Over the last two years, Herman Miller Healthcare Research has interviewed caregivers, architects, and interior designers about the choices they make in patient room design. The choices are big and small. Some choices involved millions of dollars in up front construction costs and some will cost millions of dollars in operating costs over the life of the building. The big decisions involve things like out-board or in-board toilets, same-handed or mirrored patient rooms, and medication and supply distribution methods. The impacts are obvious and the appropriate amount of time and input is given to these decisions.

However, some of the small choices that are made can have a significant impact, as well, and deserve more attention than currently given. Hand sanitizer and soap vendors frequently can change when purchasing finds a better deal. This ignores the facility cost in changing dispensers and patching holes in walls. Hospitals spend significant amounts to make patient rooms less institutional and more hospitality-like in appearance, but then do not consider how the soiled linen cart and an institutional chrome frame holding a blue bag appear in the room.

Small decisions on things like paper towels, soiled linen and hand sanitizer are often delegated to purchasing departments. They are treated as equipment for budgeting and planning and are not part of the interior designer’s scope of work. This leads to a break down in the overall design intent and can cause operational inefficiencies and increased maintenance costs. These small decisions deserve additional time and consideration to ensure they best meet everyone’s needs.

Doug Bazuin is a senior healthcare researcher for Herman Miller Healthcare ( who has studied all aspects of healthcare organizations. He also possesses ten years of new product development experience and has been involved with several new product launches.

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