Why is Northwestern Medical Center spending money on having private inpatient rooms? 

Private rooms have been shown through medical research to result in “improvements in patient care, a reduction in the risk of cross infection, and greater flexibility in operation” (Coalition for Health Environments Research, 2005).  Based on these significant benefits and their impact on healing and the overall patient experience, NMC put the conversion to all private inpatient rooms among the highest of priorities to address in our current construction and renovation project.

While the newer national guidelines for hospital construction now call for any new construction of hospital rooms be private rooms, that provision had not yet been fully adopted in Vermont when NMC went through the rigorous Certificate of Need (CON) process to obtain approval for our construction and renovation. As such, we needed to make the medical case for the need to have private rooms in our community.  Our CON application explained, “NMC’s current Medical Surgical and Intensive Care units date back to original construction in the late 1940’s with an expansion and renovation project in 1995, nearly 20 years ago.  They are outdated in design and inhibit our ability to provide the proper healing environment and care integration for our community.  NMC’s lack of private rooms on our Medical Surgical and Intensive Care Unit means our ill patients must have roommates during their illness and recovery, raising privacy, noise, infection control, staffing efficiency, and patient satisfaction issues.  Care today requires active participation by the patient and family.  This requires space for quiet conversation with providers so patients and families understand the care plan. These current semi-private rooms lack the design flexibility to serve as “universal rooms” to create maximum flexibility of use.  This not only restricts efficient use of our capacity to best meet community need, it necessitates the disruption of frequent patient movement to create better patient matches.  This results in dissatisfaction for patients, confusion and frustration for families, and the burden and distraction of avoidable non-value-added additional work for NMC’s Nursing and Environmental Services staff.  Further, our existing rooms lack the appropriate space to properly involve family members in the care and support of the patient.  This can be particularly negatively impactful for our patients receiving Hospice Services or Palliative Care.” The Green Mountain Care Board carefully considered our request and, after thorough analysis and questioning, granted approval of our conversion to private rooms based on the need for them in our community. 

As a result, we are able to implement a progressive, integrated, efficient design that enhances privacy, restfulness, and infection control; better supports patient education, family visitation, and key support person engagement; use of necessary technology to enhance care outcomes and information flow; eliminates disruptive room changes; streamlines workflows; and facilitates teamwork within our provider, nursing, clinical, and support staff. With the efficiencies achieved through design we are able to provide the private rooms our patients (and providers) prefer without charging more for them than we would for staying in a semi-private room.   Our construction and renovation are well underway.  The steel structure for the expansion of our Medical/Surgical wing at the back of the hospital is now in place and is in the process of being enclosed.  It will house 20 new private rooms, including our Intensive Care level rooms.  Once those rooms are ready, anticipated in March of 2017, we will renovate our existing Medical/Surgical rooms to convert them to private room design.  That renovation is scheduled to be complete in September of 2017. 

This represents a tremendous advance in inpatient care for Northwestern Medical Center.  Our medical staff and hospital staff have done amazing work over the years working within the constraints of semi-private rooms.  I am excited that our patients will soon have the advantages of private rooms that will only enhance the level of care provided by this highly skilled and genuinely caring team.  This transformation furthers our mission of providing exceptional care for our community and aligns with our vision of being a destination of choice for patients. Our community deserves exceptional care and our staff is devoted to providing it; it is exciting to see this project unfolding!  For more information on our project and “Exceptional” – the capital campaign helping fund our advancement – please visit our website at www.northwestern.org Thank you for believing in our vision for the future that ensure access to the best care locally.  We are dedicated to this vision. 

— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer