Almost four million children are born every year in the United States, and hospitals are in constant competition with one another to convince future parents to trust them with the delivery and initial care of their soon-to-be born babies. Child care is unique in the healthcare industry in that patients (customers) have a choice between hospitals (there are over 6,000 in the nation), birth centers (a new and growing trend with 345+ confirmed U.S. locations) and even their own homes as a place to give birth "out of hospital" births are sharply on the rise in the U.S.
Maternity differs from many other sectors of healthcare. People often go to the nearest hospital in the event of an emergency, and patients look to facilities with the best reputation and doctors for the treatment of various diseases and conditions. When it comes to childbirth, from the moment of conception and most of the way through pregnancy, patients are consistently researching birthing methods and locations in the pursuit of the perfect place for delivery, and their decisions are based heavily on the level of comfort and service they expect to receive while staying at a facility.
Since patients have a choice in where they will give birth, it has led to an evolution of the design of maternity care centers within hospitals across the country. While the focus still remains on patient safety and care, facilities have also prioritized the design of facilities to make them appear and be more comforting to their patient and families. The general shift has gone from hospitals acting like medical care facilities to hospitals acting like luxury hotels, where service and customer care are just as important as anything else.
In order to stay competitive in the market, hospitals are working with designers and architects to transform their facilities using multiple evidence-based practices that come from scientific research and consumer studies.
Single use patient rooms are the most important factor in patient comfort and care. They help patient privacy, reduce the risk of the spread of infections, improve communication between doctors and patients (patients are more likely to share information with providers in private rooms) and provide a less stressful, more comfortable place for childbirth.
Much like retail stores, hospitals are offering more options for patients during the birthing process. As parents continue to customize their birthing plans, often asking for and requiring things like natural births, doulas, water births, lactation consultants, photography and many other options, hospitals are adjusting their offerings to meet the changing needs of the marketplace.
On top of having control over their birthing plan, parents are seeking to have complete control over their rooms during their stay, which is why designers are helping facilities create rooms that encourage patient engagement and give them control over their environment. Hospitals now allow patients to control the lighting, temperature, music and television options, meal schedules and food options and many other facets of their stay, much like they would be able to while staying in a hotel.
Every element of a patient room is geared towards providing better service and care to patients. The positioning of items and layout of the rooms is designed to increase patient engagement, and the very placement of beds, televisions, communication whiteboards and medical equipment can have an impact on patient satisfaction. When patients feel like they have everything they need within reach, and when they feel that they have ample room to relax comfortably during their initial days with their newborns, they are more likely to be more satisfied with their stay.