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A Guide to Creating a Comfortable, Family-Friendly Hospital

By The Altus Team
Published Nov 29, 2022 | 5 min read

A patient's healing and success often rely on the support and presence of their family. Hospitals can promote patient well-being by proactively designing their spaces for families. In this guide, Altus outlines the most effective ways to deliver a family-centered experience and promote positive patient outcomes. Keep reading to learn the best ways to craft a family-friendly hospital.

1. Provide Telehealth Communication Options

Patients experience better outcomes when they feel supported, especially by their families. Having family by their side improves patients’ physiologic parameters so they can heal faster. However, many patients are in situations where they have limited to no visitors. This includes those who have a severely contagious illness, have family across state lines, and hospital implemented visitor rules.

When the patient’s family cannot be physically present, virtual communication is the next best thing. Hospitals can create family-friendly environments that promote positive outcomes by providing telehealth communication options to patients.

Tablet carts and telehealth devices allow patients to communicate with their families even when they cannot be in the room with their loved ones. Virtual communication carts ensure that no patient goes without a meaningful connection to their loved ones. By offering telehealth, patients are able to communicate with their families in a seamless fashion, even offering a mounted option when holding a phone or tablet is too strenuous for the patient. These telehealth carts provide all the benefits of an in-person visit, even when virtual in a hospital room.

2. Provide Ample In-Room Storage

When a patient is admitted to the hospital and family comes to visit, they bring lots of stuff. This can include anything including clothing, toiletries, a favorite pillow, stuffed animals, and even forms of entertainment for the patient. With these visits, any floor and tabletop space in a typical hospital room disappears quickly.

Hospitals can create comfort and peace by providing ample in-room storage for patients and their families. In an already small space, the area can feel even more cramped when personal effects are shoved under tables, on the floor, and stuffed at the end of the hospital bed.

Installing a closet with shelving, drawers, and doors allows patients and families to store their belongings, clearing the room and minimizing physical clutter that leads to mental and emotional overwhelm.

A hospital stay, regardless of the length of time, will never be as comfortable as home, but with personal items from home, it can be that much more comfortable for the patient.

3. Design Family-Centered Patient Rooms

When patients receive treatment in your hospital, they spend most of their time in their rooms. Designing family-centered patient rooms, or multi-zoned rooms, offer a space where visitors feel welcome during their stay and keep patients from worrying if their family is uncomfortable.

Hospitals should consider three primary zoning needs in their patient rooms:

  • Staff needs

  • Patient needs

  • Family/visitor needs

Hospital staff requires a workspace to care for the patient. By designing the room so staff can work and provide care near the patient’s bedside, hospitals can streamline workflows and eliminate the need for staff to avoid obstacles or interrupt the flow of communication.

Many hospitals choose to utilize mobile computer carts, also called workstations on wheels, in order to take up as little space in a patient’s room as possible. These medical carts have a compact design, so patients and their families don’t have to worry about moving their items around to accommodate hospital staff. They also allow nurses and providers to wheel their equipment in, attend to their patients, and efficiently move to the next patient room, all without disrupting the patient and their families.

While patients are in the hospital because they need physical care, the immediate shift to near-zero privacy is jarring, even for young patients. Creating a layout that allows for privacy curtains and patient-controlled lighting –– from their bed –– allows for autonomy, something many patients miss when admitted for care.

And lastly, family and visitors need a designated space too. Designating a family zone at the back of the room allows them to sit when providers and nurses come into the room to care for the patient. A family zone will also give individuals a space to keep their belongings.

4. Provide Comfortable Overnight In-Room Accommodations

Most patients have family members or close friends who choose to sleep in the hospital room during a multi-day stay. Overnight accommodations are necessary for hospitals seeking a family-friendly hospital experience. Instead of a single, stiff-backed chair, consider providing a comfortable recliner or couch for overnight visitors.

Many hospitals find that both parents want to stay in-room with their child. These facilities are finding ways to provide two adults with sufficient, comfortable sleeping spaces. A couch that folds into a bed provides daytime sitting space that easily converts into sleeping accommodations.

5. Make Remote Work Possible

Remote work numbers are at an all-time high thanks to workplace behavior shifts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many parents with a child in the hospital bring their work to their child’s room.

A family-friendly hospital provides spaces that make remote work possible for parents who stay with their children. Workspace accommodations are crucial for parents whose children must endure an extended hospital stay.

Designate a business space in your hospital for parents to take conference calls, fax, print, and execute other business tasks. Ensure quick, accessible internet, multiple outlets, and ergonomic workspaces or desks. Hosting a mini business center on each floor allows parents to stay near their children instead of crossing campus to take care of their work duties, and keeps their stress levels low.

By making remote work possible, hospitals remove some of the burdens on working parents.

6. Create Family Respite Spaces

Rest is a precious commodity –– and nearly impossible –– for families in the hospital. Hospital burnout comes on quickly, especially for families caring for children.

Create family respite spaces that allow parents, siblings, and even patients to escape the four walls of their room. A calming setting with toys and entertainment provides a sense of normalcy in an otherwise stressful, exhausting situation.

Below are a few ideas for family-centered respite spaces:

  • Installing a kitchenette allows families to save money on takeout and cook familiar, comforting meals.

  • Providing a refrigerator for leftovers reduces food waste. A separate fridge for breastmilk allows mothers with nursing children to store their milk.

  • Laundry facilities allow families to feel clean and fresh, especially during hospital stays that last more than a few days.

7. Implement Effective Safety and Security Measures

The most important aspect of a family-friendly hospital is safety protocol. Implementing effective safety and security measures ensures that all patients are where they need to be. This is especially important for families with children. If a parent steps away for even a few minutes, the proper safety protocols provide peace of mind that their child is safe.

RTLS tracking monitors patient location with room-level accuracy. Hospitals utilizing this technology embed a tracking tag in a patient’s identification bracelet. RTLS tracking allows hospitals to watch where a patient goes throughout a hospital, and watches for elopement and wandering so they can quickly find the patient and keep their family from worrying.

RTLS tags can also include patient information, like their name, DOB, allergy information, and condition. These tracking tags house essential patient data while managing their location and movement throughout your campus, providing families with the peace of mind they deserve as they care for their families.

Family-First Hospital Experiences

Hospital systems must keep families in mind as they design, build, and equip their facilities. Creating comfortable, family-friendly hospitals provides emotional, mental, and physical healing support for patients of all ages and their families.

Altus knows the importance of holistic patient care and providing hospitals with the resources they need to achieve the best possible outcomes. Reach out to learn how our solutions can create hospitals that deliver exceptional experiences for the whole family.

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