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conference paper

Designing a patient room: the process of stakeholders’ involvement

28/02/2022| By
Emma Emma De Meester,
+ 3
Veerle Veerle Duprez

Background: Research has shown the impact of hospital design on patient outcomes. There is a growing body of evidence how a patient room should look like from the designers, professional or patients point of view. However little research has brought the perspectives of these three user groups together. Aim: This paper aimed to describe the stepped process of stakeholders involvement when designing a patient room. Methods: A three phased study was set-up. First, based on literature, regulation and designer experiences, eight discrete choices were developed concerning the design of the patient room. Second, professionals, patients and visitors took part in an online video-animated survey representing the discrete choices. Subsequently, in a third phase, two mock up rooms were built to assess the functionality. Focus group session were conducted with purposively selected participants. Discussion: To involve the stakeholders’ perspectives into the development process is a time consuming approach. It contributes to identify principles on which patients’ and professionals’ preferences are based. It also enhanced the professionals’ commitment.

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Type of the Paper: Peer-reviewed Conference Paper/ Short Paper

Track title: stream 3, visual tools as boundary objects, session number 3A

Designing a patient room: the process of stakeholders' involvement

Emma De Meester 1*, Liesbet Delforge 1, Simon Malfait 1,2, Lynn Pieters 1,3 & Veerle Duprez 1

Names of the track editors:

Firstname Lastname

Firstname Lastname

Names of the reviewers:

Firstname Lastname

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Journal: The Evolving Scholar 


Submitted: 01 January 2021

Accepted: 01 June 2021

Published: 02 June 2021

Citation: name of authors [if more than 3 authors use the name of the 1st author followed by et al. e.g smith et al.], title of the article, name of the journal, volume, year, DOI 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution xxx (CC xxxx) license. 

©year [name of the author(s)] published by TU Delft OPEN on behalf of the authors 

  1. Nursing Department, Ghent University Hospital, Belgium

  2. Strategic Policy Unit, Ghent University Hospital, Belgium

  3. Infrastructural Team Ghent University Hospital, Belgium

*; ORCID 0000-0002-3560-1100

Research highlights

1) An integrated approach to include patients', visitors' and professionals' perspectives about the patient room design

2) A stepwise process on how to involve stakeholders when designing patient rooms is pictured

2) Opportunities and pitfalls for stakeholder involvement are highlighted

Keywords: Hospital design; patient room; user preferences; stakeholder involvement

1. Introduction

The building of a new hospital is challenging. The design of hospital patient rooms should be in line with the demanding needs of its patients, visitors and professionals (Patterson et al., 2017 & 2019). The majority of the literature explores hospital environment and well-being from a single perspective, eighter designers’ or patients’ perspectives (Huisman et al., 2012). Therefore, a process wherein all stakeholder are involved is advised throughout the different stages of the design of a patient room (Keys et al., 2016). This paper reports on the process of stakeholder's involvement during the design of a new patient room at a large tertiary hospital in Flanders, Belgium.

Patient participation has gained increasing attention in the past decade and demonstrated benefits at all healthcare system levels (Castro et al., 2016). Including the patients' perspectives might increase patient satisfaction and comfort (Patterson et al., 2017). A recent study by van Oel and colleagues (2021) explored the relationship between patient preferences and patient room design. They asked patients themselves about their preferences for the physical environment and the healthcare professionals what they think patient preferences were. Their study revealed inconsistency between what patients actually favoured and what professionals thought the patients preferred (van Oel et al., 2021). These findings emphasize the importance of involving patients directly in the design process.

A hospital room is not only a residence for the patient. It's also a workplace for a wide range of health care providers (HCP). A patient-centered room does not need to come at the cost of the professionals' own comfort. Nurses spend most of their time taking care of a patient. Nurses' experience provides them with extensive practical knowledge (Stichler et al., 2007). Other stakeholder groups like technicians and logistic staff who perform professional activities other than care have different needs regarding the design of the room (Lavender et al., 2015). Although Keys and colleagues (2017) emphasized the importance of collaboration between designers and professionals, the needs of healthcare professionals are not always integrated into the room design (Keys et al., 2017). The professional's perspective can be valuable in the early stages of the design process, as it saves costs by reducing change orders (Lavender et al., 2016). Also, it enables the alignment of needs, value and cost in an early stage and, in the long run, it might facilitate a healthy work environment.

Various tools and guidelines are available to foster an evidence-based design and decision process to develop a new patient room (Quan et al., 2017; Lavender et al., 2020). These tools and guidelines assist designers in relaying user input in an evidence-based way. Additionally, national regulations need to be taken into account and often provide a obligatory outline for developing a patient room.

The design of a patient room should aim to combine the needs of all stakeholders in order to provide patient- and family-centered care. The first step is to involve all stakeholders throughout the process of designing a patient room. Stakeholders' involvement is beneficial (Malfait et al., 2018); however, evidence of stakeholders' involvement when designing a patient room is limited and focuses on the results rather than on the process of involvement (Lavender et al., 2020). Therefore, this paper aims to describe the stepped process of stakeholders' involvement when designing a patient room. By describing the process and a critical reflection on it, we aim to share experiences that might be helpful for healthcare institutions that want to involve their stakeholders in hospital room design.

2. Study description

A three-phased process was set up to develop the new patient room with (1) defining the evidence and regulation base, (2) large-scale exploration of stakeholder preferences, and (3) exploration of usability and functionality.

Before recruitment, ethical approval was obtained from the ethics committee of the UZ Gent. An informed consent document had to be signed before the participants could access the survey (phase 2) or participate in the interviews (phase 3).

An overview of the process of stakeholders’ involvement is given in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Process of stakeholders' involvement

2.1. Phase one: defining evidence and regulation base

First, based on national regulation, designer experiences and in-house expertise, eight discrete choices (DC) were developed concerning the design of the patient room. The initial design was developed based on the designers' experiences and applicable national regulations, such as room or door size requirements. An in-house team of experts with various accountability contributed to that design. The patient advisory board and various stakeholder groups examined the feasibility of the scenarios. If no consensus between them was reached, it was processed into a discrete choice between two or three options. A discrete choice experiment is often used to measure the eligibility of new interventions (de Bekker-Grob et al., 2012) or the preferences in the delivery of care (Ryan et al., 2001). Participants are offered a set of hypothetical scenarios where two or more options are presented, nevertheless in a hidden way. This method reveals the relative importance of the characteristics of the scenarios (Ryan et al., 2001). The options were represented by a coloured 3D image, accompanied by the question: "What do you prefer?". No additional information or explanation was given to avoid bias. An online video-animated survey representing the DC has been set up.

2.2. Phase two: a large-scale exploration of stakeholder preferences

Next, all users of the future patient room were included as participants and represented three stakeholder groups: patients, visitors and professionals. Participants needed to be 18 years or older. Within a timeframe of four weeks, a total sample approach was used. In total, 1561 participants indicated their preferences for the eight discrete choices. There average age was 43.3 years with a range between 18 and 85 years. In total 71% were female and 29% were male. An overview of the participants is presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Characteristics of the participants during the second phase (n = 1561)

Three recruitment strategies were used to accomplish this.

  1. Direct recruitment of patients, visitors and professionals

For two days, a booth with posters was set up in a central place at the hospital campus and passers-by were encouraged to participate. The researchers explained the purpose of the study. Several tablets were provided so the survey could be filled in immediately. Additionally, flyers, including a QR code, which gave access to the survey, were administered so potential participants could complete it at a more convenient moment.

Whtihin a timeframe of seven days (May 2021), the researchers visited patient and waiting rooms throughout the hospitals. Both hospitalization wards and outpatient clinics, with a variety of specializations, were visited by the researchers. Every attendant was invited to participate. If the candidate hesitated, the flyer was offered. Direct recruitment in the waiting rooms was the most successful way of obtaining study participation.

  1. Indirect recruitment of patients and visitors

A flyer with an invitation to participate, including a QR code was delivered with the patient meal tray on randomly selected days during May 2021. Non-hospitalized patients received an invitation added with their appointment reminder. The invitation contained a link to the survey.

  1. Indirect recruitment of professionals

A two-foldes strategy was used to recruit healthcare professionals. Every hospital professional was invited through the monthly newsletter of the new hospital project. This email contained information about the study and a link to the survey. On the other hand, professionals also received the same message with their monthly paper payslip. In addition, a website was developed to keep the professionals informed about the new-build project.

We illustrate three dicrete choices. The first example of the DC is illustrated in the two upper images in Figure 2. The DC shows two different designs of the hallway of a ward. The width of the hallway remains the same in both images. The first option (upper left image) shows a straight hallway without corners or niches. A flat wall with doors next to eachother. The second image (upper right) contains a hallway with several niches.

The second DC represent the door of two patient rooms. The first choice (middle left) has a window allowing to look inside the room, whearas the second choice (middle right) represen a solid door.

The last DC questioned the arrangement of the outlets. In the first option (lower left) the outlets are located horizontally above the patient's bed. A second option (lower right) shows the outlets placed vertically next to the bed.

Figure 2. Illustration of discrete choices

2.3. Phase three: the exploration of usability and functionality

Subsequently, in the third phase, two mock-up rooms were built to assess the usability of the patient room. Mock-ups are used to evaluate the usability and functionality of a care room before it is built (Durham & Kenyon, 2019). Participants can experience the room in realistic size and try out different scenarios (Shultz & Jha, 2021). Professionals of different occupational groups were purposively recruited to have a strategic representation of various stakeholders (Table 2).

Table 2. Description of the stakeholder groups during the third phase

Participants under ‘revalidation’ represent physical and occupational therapists. Whereas speech therapists, dieticians, mobile medical imaging nurses or nursing specialists are defined as bedside consult. Among the patients, 50% were female and 50% were male. The avergae age was 59,6 years with a range between 21 and 72 years. The 45% of the HCP were female and 22,4% were male, the mean age was 40,8 years with a range between 23 and 61 years.

In total, 20 focus group interviews were conducted with 70 individuals from 10 occupational stakeholder groups. Focus group sessions were conducted with a monodisciplinary representation of stakeholders. The occupational groups were not mixed to prevent an imbalance of power so all the participants could speak freely. During the interviews, the thinking aloud method was used. Expertise is based on experience is difficult to clarify to an outsider. The thinking aloud method encourages thinking aloud when evaluating or executing a task. Therefore, knowledge of which the participant was not aware can be accessed, and misinterpretations can be avoided (Sommeren et al., 1994). The presence of multiple participants per group led to interaction, discussion and a broad reflection on the usability and functionality of the mock-up rooms.

3. Discussion

Ideally, the design of a patient room should be in line with the demanding needs of its patients, visitors, professionals and current legislation. However, to date, no studies have integrated the multiple perspective of the broad range of stakeholders. So, it remains unclear how these demanding needs can be brought together in a structured and meaningful way.

This paper attempts to bridge part of the gap and describes the stepped process of stakeholders' involvement when designing a patient room. The herein described participatory design has highlighted some strengths and pitfalls.

1. Shifting from a far away to a nearby event

The involvement of a wide range of stakeholders led to a sense of appreciation and meaningfulness among them. By giving them a voice, the participants became more committed to the upcoming event of building a new hospital. The positive effect of professional participation on organizational commitment is well-studied, also within healthcare organizations (Lomo, 2017). Participation, as done in this study by knowledge and expertise sharing, had a strong positive effect on professionals' commitment towards the new-build project.

2. From assumed to realist perspectives

As seen previous studies, if not directly involved, we may rather rely on the assumed instead of the real perspective (van Oel et al., 2021). From the professionals' perspective, elements of safety, ergonomics, and efficiency were brought into the discussion. From a patient standpoint, aspects of privacy, comfort, rooming-in, and accessibility were put forward. Merging a variety of perspectives delivers a holistic and realistic view. Nevertheless, it also brings in complexity and might lead to conflicting perspectives and principles, complicating the final decision making.

3. A valuable but time-consuming process

In total, this project took up to one year. Developing the DC, exploring the preferences, and evaluating mock-up rooms requires meticulous organization. Bringing various stakeholders together demands timely planning of in-between meetings and discussions.

The advantages of this careful decision making process will only manifest later. As Durham (2009) pointed out mock-ups are an oppurtunity to identify incoherences and resolve them before the actual building. It is also a cost-effective method facilitating workflow and avoiding rework.

4. The possible rise of power imbalances

A broad range of stakeholders is crucial. Each stakeholder has different occupational needs regarding the room design (Lavender et al., 2005). But the use of monodisciplinary teams during the evaluation process is desirable. Given the historically based hierarchy between occupational groups, participants might not be comfortable speaking openly when this is needed.

For the acceptance of the final design in complex decision-making processes, commitment is important, and monodisciplinary teams have the advantage that people open up more easily, but that it does not add to a mutual understanding of other stakeholders’ needs.

In the next stage, the results of the DC and mock-up rooms will be analyzed by the research team, presented to and discussed with a range of stakeholders.

4. Conclusion

An exploration throughout literature concerning hospital environment reveals that current studies rely either on designers’ or patients’ perspectives. The interaction of the full range of stakeholders is unexplored. This study shares a process of stakeholders involvement in the field of hosptial room design. It is a time-consuming process but it achieves a mutual understanding towards different needs and a higher commitment towards the project.

Data Availability Statement

Not applicable.

Contributor statement

All authors contributed to the conceptualization of this paper. The studies were developed by VD & SM, and supervised by VD. All authors were involved in data collection, validation and analysis. EDM & VD were responsible for the writing of the original draft. SM, LD & LP critically reviewed & edited the paper.


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Submitted by28 Feb 2022
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Emma De Meester
Universitair Ziekenhuis Ghent
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