Hospitals are supposed to be places where critically ill or injured people can receive constant care and attention. They cost millions to build, are equipped with the latest technology, and offer access to healthcare professionals 24/7. Yet, you would be hard-pressed to find someone – anyone – who likes hospitals, and we bet there is at least one person in your life who has uttered some version of the phrase, “I’d rather die here than go to a hospital.”
According to Dr. Dhruv Khullar, M.D., M.P.P., the very design of the hospital itself could be contributing to patients’ inability to get well. In a piece for the New York Times, Dr. Dhruv writes “evidence suggests we’ve been building [hospitals] all wrong — and that the deficiencies aren’t simply unaesthetic or inconvenient. All those design flaws may be killing us.”
How hospital design defects can put you at risk
Unless you have a private room in a private hospital, the chances are good that you are being exposed to fresh illnesses, injuries and risks every day of your stay. According to Dr. Dhruv’s findings:
- Airborne illnesses spread more quickly in shared rooms; switching to a private room decreases your chance of infection by half.
- The length of hospital stays decrease by 10% when patients have their own spaces.
- Hospital design – including lighting, toilet height and wet floors – contribute to the number of patient falls in hospitals each year.
- Exposure to noise (which often “far exceeds guideline-based recommendations”) contributes to poor sleep, denying recovering patients the rest they need to allow their bodies to heal.
- Lack of natural light often coincides with longer hospital stays for patients.
- The placement of command centers, like nursing stations, can contribute to how quickly (or slowly) staff can reach patients in need; this likely contributes overall to how quickly people in emergency situations have those emergencies addressed and treated.
Dr. Dhruv mentions another critical issue with hospital design that you may not realize could affect your health: your privacy. HIPAA laws protect your medical records and history, as well as your insurance information – but there is very little privacy in emergency rooms or hospital rooms. While your overall health or rate of recovery may not be affected if your neighbor hears you have a history of gout, or that you take a statin for your cholesterol, patients may be less forthcoming with their problems or histories if they feel strangers are listening in on their conversations.
Medical errors may be the third leading cause of death in this country, but there are many contributing factors to those errors, and poorly designed hospitals could be among them. The next time you or your loved one needs to go to a hospital, you might want to consider the private room after all.
Plaxen & Adler, P.A. is a premier medical malpractice firm serving people throughout Maryland. For more than 30 years, our Baltimore medical negligence attorneys have upheld the rights of the injured. For more information about our services, or to schedule a free consultation, please call 410.988.4449, or fill out our contact form.