I always enjoy reading about new healthcare facilities and how the latest designs enhance the patient experience. Not long ago, I was at a conference where one of these designs was being lauded for improving efficiency and convenience. The problem is that it looked good on paper, but the actual patient experience turned out to be short on privacy.
Last week a family member of mine had an obstetric emergency that required her to visit one of these state-of-the-art, free-standing emergency rooms. The beautiful windows flanking two sides of the building allow natural light by day and a peepshow by night. As she and her husband approached the building from the parking lot they got a clear view of a woman’s backside as she moved from an exam room to the bathroom. Little did my family member know that over the next three hours, she’d be the one on display, not only through the windows but the entire waiting room as she made three trips to the bathroom.
I was appalled to hear how the design required gowned patients to travel past windows and waiting rooms, but quickly learned that it wasn’t just the architecture that disregarded privacy. It was also staff procedures. Each exam room had two doors. One is for patient access, the other for staff. Three times during her pelvic exam, staff entered the exam room. One such intrusion was a man from registration wanting to clarify her name, birthdate and insurance. During a pelvic exam! I can’t make this stuff up. She, understandably was mortified and told me she finally had to ask the nurse stand in front of the door so she could dress without fear of another intrusion.
My guess is that patients weren’t included in the design, nor did they actually test the design with journey mapping. A little more forethought could have prevented a breach of privacy that ruined at least one patient experience.