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Latest Trend: Hospitals Build Bigger Rooms for Bigger Patients

Bariatric population has special needs

When the revamped Parkland Hospital in Dallas opened recently, each of the 862 single-patient rooms was ready to accommodate the growing number of obese patients that hospitals in the U.S. increasingly care for.

It’s a trend across the country, according to an article in The New York Times.

“Most hospitals we are building are providing an increasingly larger percentage of rooms that can accommodate the larger person,” Nancy Connolly, a senior executive at Hammes Company, a hospital consulting group, told the Times. “In the last 5 to 10 years, maybe two rooms could accommodate them. Now, 15 to 20 percent of rooms can accommodate them.”

Obese patients face unique challenges, including the need for larger and sturdier beds and wheelchairs and other heavy-duty equipment. Because larger wheelchairs may not fit through the doors of a standard-size bathroom, patients are often bathed in their rooms, a cumbersome process that often requires two or three caregivers.

Each of Parkland’s 273-square-foot rooms was designed to more effectively treat heavier patients, starting with the six-foot-wide door opening to accommodate wider wheelchairs and beds.

Called “advanced smart beds” by their manufacturer, the heavy-duty beds accommodate people weighing up to 500 pounds and wirelessly collect, record, and transmit relevant patient data –– including the patient’s weight and head position, as well as the bed’s height, brake position, and side-rail status –– to the hospital’s electronic medical records. An alarm alerts caregivers if a patient tries to leave the bed.

For the greatest flexibility and patient privacy, architects placed the 50-square-foot private patient bathrooms along an exterior wall. Every bathroom has a four-foot-wide doorway, a heavy-duty, floor-mounted commode, and an extra-large shower with a large seat.

Separately, 100 rooms — about four per floor — are equipped with a motorized lift that can accommodate patients weighing up to 1,000 pounds. Running along a ceiling-mounted track, its hammock-like sling can more easily and safely lift and transport the hospital’s heaviest patients.

Every floor also has a portable bariatric lift that can accommodate patients of any weight who require gentle transport, including those who have had spine surgery or joint replacement. Lifts also benefit nurses and other caregivers because they reduce the occurrence of strains, muscle pulls, and other work-related injuries directly related to moving and transporting heavier patients.

While the patient rooms at most hospitals are mirror images, every room at the new Parkland Hospital is not only the same size but also “same-handed” — furnishings, patient charts, and medical equipment are always on the same side. Research indicates that such an approach helps reduce the incidence of clinical errors, as hospital staff no longer need to hunt for charts and equipment.

Patients and staff members are not the only ones benefiting from the changes at Parkland, the Times article says. The chairs in each room can accommodate a 400-pound visitor. And beneath a picture window with a view of the Dallas skyline, the padded cushion of a love seat folds into a visitor’s bed that can support 750 pounds.

Source: The New York Times; August 24, 2015.

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