Patients Value Safe Storage

hospital lock

The world of healthcare is one of many scientific studies, papers, trials, presentations, and research. Rarely does research of a subject within other disciplines compare to that within healthcare.

Granted, a 20-page technical analysis can be pretty dry reading–no matter the subject. Yet, I reviewed just such a paper recently, titled “Healing Environments: What Design Factors Really Matter According to Patients?”

Because I have linked to the study, I will summarize the results here–paying special attention to the security and safety segment because that is where my career and healthcare intersect. I supply security solutions to healthcare environments.

The full study looked at six large categories with a desire to find which had the greatest design impact on patient well-being. In no particular order, those six areas included:

    1. Spatial Comfort–involving patient room size, interior design, and views of nature (photos or directly).
    2. Safety and Security–safe storage, emergency help, restricting unauthorized persons, light controls
    3. Autonomy–independence to take action like opening blinds, adjusting lighting or temperature, and closing the door.
    4. Sensory Comfort–Windows, ventilation, scent, noise levels, lighting.
    5. Privacy–private vs. multi-patient rooms, lines of sight, bed partitions, areas for private discussion.
    6. Social Comfort–support by others impacted by chairs, tables, carpeting, as well as TV, media, radio, internet.

The study was carried out at four hospitals and with nearly 400 patients of all ages, socio-economic scales, and using private and semi-private (up to 3-4 patients per room) patient environments. Multiple research tools and analysis were used including machine-learning, paper and pencil surveys, and regression analysis.

According to the authors, a safe storage place is the strongest predictor of safety and security in the regression analysis and the second strongest in the BP analysis. And I quote them: “This indicates that a safe storage place is especially relevant in terms of safety and security.”

In fact, of the six broad categories in the study one analysis showed safety and security to be the most important factor on patient well-being and another analysis showed it to be in the top three. Surprisingly, they found privacy was the least important patient issue when measured by both types of analysis.

Of the six broad categories the analysis also showed that safety and security had the lowest error margin compared to the other five categories. This lends more credibility to the results within this category. Here is how it broke down:

  •  #1 Safety/Security patient issue: Safe Storage Space
  • #2 Safety/Security patient issue: Restriction of Unauthorized Personnel
  • #3 Safety/Security patient issue: Ability to Quickly Call Staff
  • #4 Safety/Security patient issue: Ability to Quickly Control the Light

Again, all topics studied were patient-focused relative to the design considerations that contribute to their well-being in a healthcare setting.

The findings do not surprise me. I have spent a number of years as a security/safety resource to hospitals on everything from their surveillance video and card access systems, to fire alarms, fire suppression, mass notification, and nurse call systems. And while all of those safety and security systems are of vital importance, they are not as valued to a patient as safe storage of their personal belongings.

Today, my work with Lowe & Fletcher in this arena is focused on that safe storage space–frequently using the keyless locks we manufacture to provide patient peace of mind.

Is progress being made? Yes, yet it is very slow. Currently, the designers, architects, and even the OEM’s I work with are only beginning to realize that secure storage space in a patient room makes for good design and patient well-being. We still have a design imbalance where more effort goes into furniture surfaces, calming colors, and artwork–all items that come secondary to what this study revealed.

The greater progress seems to be directly at the hospital level, where nursing staff, facilities departments, and on-site teams are recognizing and retro-fitting patient rooms to provide secure patient storage areas.

It is still a work in progress on both fronts with much room for improvement.

I often share my availability as a security and locking resource to the A&E community, designers, and furniture/storage/cabinet/locker manufacturers. I do the same with the staff at scores of hospitals I visit every quarter. Currently, the hospitals are more apt to take me up on the offer and to make aftermarket investments to create secure personal storage spaces for patients. I applaud them for this.

My hope is that the design industry becomes pro-active at the manufacturing and project level–right from the start. Design with security of patient belongings in mind. Specifying a wardrobe door or dresser drawer without concern for security is poor design. Have locking solutions that allow patients peace of mind during their hospital stay. Reach out to myself, or others that work in my field, to involve security professionals in your designs.

If we all tackle this together we can positively impact the hospital stays of millions of patients–who can better focus on their health and well-being when they know their personal belongings are securely stored.