Acuity Adaptability: Responsive healthcare delivery model merits consideration

First in a series of excerpts from the free executive guide, Acuity Adaptability: Innovative Planning and Design for Responsive Healthcare Delivery. 

By Mike Zorich and Corey Gaarde 

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the traditional delivery of patient care has been challenged as never before, spurring many healthcare organizations to seek a better model for the future. Though it may not be the answer for every healthcare facility or system, the acuity-adaptable design concept could lead the way to better care in many situations.  

 Unlike traditional models of healthcare design (which involve transferring the patient to different rooms, different departments, even different hospitals to be treated by different specialist physicians and nurses as the patient’s condition improves or worsens), the acuity adaptability model of healthcare design keeps the patient in the same room from admission to discharge, regardless of changes in acuity – potentially leading to better patient outcomes and reductions in the cost of care over the long term.  

1990s study of the effectiveness of the acuity adaptability model revealed significant improvements in quality of care and reductions in cost of care for patients in acuity-adaptable environments. These improvements included:  

  • Fewer clinician handoffs and transfers  
  • Fewer medication errors  
  • Fewer patient falls  
  • Increased patient satisfaction  
  • Fewer budgeted nursing hours per patient  
  • Increased available nursing time without additional cost  
  • More patient days per bed without an increase in bed base  

Other studies also have supported the potential benefits of acuity adaptability, including a pilot study at a 1,500-bed tertiary hospital that examined the implementation of four acuity-adaptable rooms in the facility’s 30-bed multi-organ transplant unit. 

In this blog series, we provide a high-level exploration of acuity adaptability, including its characteristics, potential benefits and liabilities, and key steps for organizations considering the model’s adoption through renovation or new construction. 

Next: Acuity Adaptability: Components of healthcare design 

For an unabridged version of this content, download the executive guide, Acuity Adaptability: Innovative Planning and Design for Responsive Healthcare Delivery. A recorded webinar on the topic is also available. 

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