The patient room is one of the better-researched areas of an acute care facility, and because of that it’s one of the easiest places to incorporate thoughtful evidence-based design (EBD) features.

Through grants from the ASID Foundation and the Angelo Donghia Foundation, The Center for Health Design looked at patient rooms in medical/surgical, ICU, and maternity care spaces and pulled together the known EDB features that should be incorporated in their designs.

Overall, we found 19 well-documented features worth considering for incorporation into med/surg rooms. The top six are as follows: 


  • Think about creating specific zones tailored to the needs of and usage by patients, family, and staff. In the staff zone, there should be a clearly identified medication safety zone that’s located out of the circulation path to limit interruptions and distractions in order to reduce the chance for errors. Include a space in the room for a medication dispensing cart, if one will be used.
  • To help facilitate clear and effective communication in the patient room and nurses’ stations, provide easily accessible communication systems (e.g. telephone, intercom). Provide visible and legible communication systems, such as patient room boards, to provide care team information to patients and families as well as any special instructions that might be needed. Where possible, use a noiseless paging/visual alarm and display system to minimize noise sources. This will help to alleviate noise near the patient room, which can lead to a reduction in patient stress and anxiety and improve patient comfort. If possible, provide for telemedicine connections, as well.
  • Provide for night-lighting between the bed and bathroom to improve patient mobility and reduce the risk of falls, and introduce adequate task lighting in the medication safety zone and at the bedside to prevent medication errors. Also provide appropriate lighting for patient examination and for checking on equipment (IV pump, etc.) during the night. Think about the best lighting for the family zone areas, too, to allow family members to make use of the space without disturbing the patient.
  • Improve patient mobility and reduce the risk of falls by providing a clear path for patient handling/movement equipment from the patient bed to the bathroom. Provide assist aids/lifts with ambulation capacity. Provide a percentage of patient handling/movement devices specifically designed for bariatric patients, too. Where possible, provide ceiling lifts for patient handling/movement to reduce the potential for injury to staff during patient transfers. Provide portable floor lifts when ceiling lifts aren’t possible.
  • When thinking about walls, use smooth surfaces with minimum perforations and crevices to reduce the risk of contamination. Reduce the use of ridges or reveals that could serve as dust collectors. Treat joints and seams for easy cleaning and maintenance and use wipeable/washable materials for high-touch surfaces. For efficient delivery of care, mirror medical gases and power outlets on either side of the bed. Be sure that nurse controls for lighting and temperature are convenient. Verify the locations and height of equipment, connections, and outlets with various caregivers for ease of access and use. Use sound-absorbing finish materials to reduce overall noise so alarm levels can be reduced. Provide patient access to electronic media for education and entertainment to improve patient engagement.
  • Provide built-in sinks with seamless counter surfaces for reduced risk of contamination. Locate faucets off-center (from the side of the drain) to prevent splash and deep sink basins to prevent splashing from the drain to other surfaces. Locate the sink so that it’s easily visible to the staff as they enter the room to increase hand-washing compliance. Create visual cues directing attention to the sink or alcohol gel dispenser. Use sensor technology for faucets, towel dispensers, gel dispensers, soap dispensers, etc.


Watch for upcoming blogs, which will explore EBD solutions for the ICU and maternity care spaces.


These design strategies and more can be found in the Design Insights and Strategy tool located under Insights & Solutions at