In my last posting, I talked about the need for designers to conduct research. As trained professionals, we bring diverse tools and resources to every project. Part of our expertise is to bring Evidence Based research with benchmarked data to help clients make the best decision regarding their healthcare facility.

Also previously mentioned was the recently completed Butler Memorial Hospital Patient Tower expansion in Pennsylvania, where we are conducting three post-occupancy studies to examine centralized vs. decentralized nurses’ stations; the benefit of dispersed patient supplies (DPS) pass-throughs in nursing units; and the influence of a new Knowledge Center on patients, staff and the community.

Because Butler is an addition, our baseline measurement will be the existing hospital compared to the new patient tower, which introduces many new processes not used in the original building.

The first of our post-occupancy studies will be the pass-throughs. Sometimes known as nurse servers, the pass-throughs are designed to streamline work processes by decentralizing the supply rooms and equipping each patient room with supplies and non-narcotic medication. Each patient room will have a double-sided pass through that includes a locked drawer for medication, supplies above, and a linen hamper below. The cabinets are stocked from the corridor and nurses access needed supplies from the patient-room side.

The goal of the pass through is to reduce walking distance for nurses by putting supplies closer to the bedside so they can spend more time with patients.

Our qualitative and quantitative research will look at three basic criteria:

  • Do pass-throughs reduce nurses’ travel time?
  • Do nurses, in fact, spend more time with patients?
  • Are nurses satisfied with the process?

During the study period, we’ll shadow floor nurses and monitor frequency of visits to med/supply rooms, measure hunting/gathering time for materials, and measure nurse-patient contact time. In addition, we will conduct a satisfaction survey and compare the data to the original hospital, which doesn’t utilize the pass through. We will do a one-year review, and we’ll return in three years to repeat the study and compare data.

Going into the study, we’re already aware of certain potential drawbacks to pass-throughs, such as congestion in the hallway as staff stocks supplies, and challenges of maintaining a master inventory list.

Because good design is an on-going learning process, the research will help give weight to our design decisions. The more Evidence Based research that designers bring from past projects, the more we can help our clients achieve optimal care solutions.