updated 4/19/2004 1:16:56 PM ET 2004-04-19T17:16:56

A day after suffering a heart attack, Bob McAuliffe was resting comfortably in his private room at Bronson Methodist Hospital.

  1. Don't miss these Health stories
    1. Splash News
      More women opting for preventive mastectomy - but should they be?

      Rates of women who are opting for preventive mastectomies, such as Angeline Jolie, have increased by an estimated 50 percent in recent years, experts say. But many doctors are puzzled because the operation doesn't carry a 100 percent guarantee, it's major surgery -- and women have other options, from a once-a-day pill to careful monitoring.

    2. Larry Page's damaged vocal cords: Treatment comes with trade-offs
    3. Report questioning salt guidelines riles heart experts
    4. CDC: 2012 was deadliest year for West Nile in US
    5. What stresses moms most? Themselves, survey says

The large window allowed in plenty of sunlight and provided a panoramic view of the outdoors. A chair near his bed could be converted into a sleeper for an overnight visitor, a special room service menu and an errand-running concierge were only a phone call away.

“It’s airy, it’s light — it’s really like a resort or a hotel,” the 64-year-old retired sheet-metal worker from Marshall said while surveying his surroundings from his bed.

For McAuliffe, who underwent quadruple bypass surgery to repair his heart, his favorite room feature was a bathroom he could call his own.

Patient privacy addressed
Bronson is among a growing number of new or renovated hospitals in Michigan and throughout the United States whose patients recuperate in private rooms. Besides increased privacy, hospital officials say other benefits to not having wards or semiprivate rooms include less risk of acquiring an infection from another patient and no risk of getting an incompatible roommate.

“We have found that this has had a wonderful, positive impact on patient satisfaction,” said Frank J. Sardone, president and chief executive officer of Bronson Healthcare Group, which operates the hospital. “Patients and families absolutely love the private rooms. None of them ever want to go back to having a semiprivate room.”

The 348-bed hospital opened in December 2000 at a cost of $181 million. From the time of its conception in the early 1990s, Bronson officials never wavered in their desire for addressing patients’ privacy, Sardone said.

Operational costs reduced
The advantages include some significant cost savings for the hospital, including about $500,000 per year in patient-transfer costs. A four-year study by Dr. Richard Van Enk, an epidemiologist on staff, found that the number of hospital-acquired diseases and infections dropped by 11 percent between 1999 and 2002, resulting in further annual savings of $1.2 million.

“There’s quite a reduction in operational costs if you can reduce your infection rate,” Van Enk said.

The extra cost required to construct an all-private hospital has almost been recovered in the savings after a little more than three years, Sardone said.

Private rooms allow doctors to speak more candidly with their patients without worrying about violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a sweeping overhaul of federal health care privacy laws that took effect last April.

Perhaps most importantly, patients in individual rooms find an environment that’s more restful.

A new trend for hospitals
UCLA Medical Center is building a new, on-campus hospital with 525 rooms, all of which will be private. Each room will feature a built-in window seat that will convert into a bed for a patient’s loved one.

A planned expansion of All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., is to feature a new, 240-bed pediatric hospital and an outpatient-services complex. Except for about half the neonatal intensive care unit, all the patient rooms will be private.

“Over the last 25 or 30 years that I’ve been in this business, that has been becoming more and more prevalent here and I’m sure everywhere,” said Tim Strouse, vice president of operations and the person overseeing the construction project.

The February edition of trend-spotting American Demographics magazine said almost all new hospital rooms being built are single rooms.

“As there becomes more transparency in the whole health care structure, I think private rooms become sort of a function of that because people make demands of what their dollars are (used) for,” said John McManus, the publication’s editor-in-chief.

It costs more for hospitals that have only single rooms because fewer patients can be cared for at one time, but Bronson officials “feel the benefits outweigh that cost,” Sardone said.

The rate for one night of room and board at Bronson is $1,459, a cost covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans because the hospital has only individual room rates.

“As far as we’re concerned, we can create a benefits package that includes those things,” said Mohit Ghose, a spokesman for the recently merged American Association of Health Plans and Health Insurance Association of America. The trade group represents nearly 1,300 companies that provide health insurance coverage to more than 200 million U.S. residents.

“It’s just a question of what the market will bear and what employers, employees and consumers in general want to pay for in their health care coverage,” Ghose said.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments