Healthcare professionals know the importance of patient privacy is twofold. From a clinical perspective, creating physical barriers between patients can slow or stop the spread of infection, while from a human perspective, privacy is a basic human right that is even more important for the sick and vulnerable.
For hospitals and long-term care homes, the real challenge is to find patient privacy systems that effectively fulfil both functions while also being practical and affordable.
The Covid-19 crisis has shown that for patient privacy to be effective on infection control, it must also be easy to clean and disinfect. It’s also highlighted the need for increased flexibility; smart infrastructure that allows healthcare facilities to respond quickly and creatively in the event of an emergency.
Last but by no means least, it has reminded us that while sometimes comfort and dignity seem unimportant in the face of life-threatening situations, they can also be one of the most important aspects of caring for the critically ill and dying, offering some peace of mind for the patient, for their family and also for those delivering intensive and end-of-life care.
Privacy at its most basic
At its most fundamental level, patient privacy is about allowing people to retain as much of their autonomy and dignity as possible, even if they are unable to live independently – whether that’s for a short period while they recover from hospital treatment, or in the long term.
No matter what their age or ability, people should be able to carry out basic functions such as eating, sleeping, getting changed and using the bathroom, in private. Medical observations, treatments and tests should not be conducted in view of other patients, visitors or staff. Patients should be able to discuss their symptoms and prognosis with medical teams privately, to preserve confidentiality and avoid embarrassment or discrimination.
How does lack of privacy impact on health?
The absence of privacy can have various impacts on mental and physical health. The most obvious relates to infection, particularly healthcare-acquired infection, which claims lives and costs Canada’s healthcare system billions each year.
Lack of privacy can lead to discrimination if a patient’s private information is overheard or leaked to non-confidential sources.
Ultimately, a lack of privacy leads to stress, which is a major barrier to recovery. Hospital inpatients are often stressed by inability to sleep or rest due to noise from other patients and staff, concern that they will disturb others, embarrassment caused by other patients witnessing their symptoms or distress, and generally feeling unable to fully relax. Disrupted sleep patterns in particular are shown to have significant effects on the health of patients recovering from illness or surgery, including reduced pain tolerance, immunosuppression, delayed healing, increased blood pressure and heart rate, and low mood. When hospitals are able to effectively address these issues, patients generally experience better health outcomes.
Flexible patient privacy
The key to successful patient privacy is variety and versatility. Just as isolation rooms don’t work in the ER, curtains aren’t the best choice for the ICU or palliative care ward. At Belroc, we’ve put a lot of time into curating a collection of patient privacy systems that deliver versatility across all departments and facility types, as well as practicality clinicians and other healthcare professionals love to have at their disposal.
We’re especially proud of our InstaSwap and CleanScreen products, which have truly come into their own during a global pandemic by delivering superb infection control and privacy performance in a truly hygienic format that reduces risk to both staff and patients.
The pandemic has also pushed us to streamline our service, and many of our patient privacy solutions, including curtains, screens and track, are now available as part of our ‘Quick Ship’ program – we hold stock of these items in standard sizes and colours, which enables us to ship them out to contractors and facility managers in record time.
We’ve spent the past 20 years working with hospitals and long-term care facilities so what we don’t know about patient privacy – and associated building regulation compliance – isn’t worth knowing. We’re always happy to provide consultancy to facilities wishing to enhance or upgrade their interiors, and we believe our expertise is invaluable – particularly now, at a time of challenge, upheaval and change within this vital sector.
To discuss your facility’s patient privacy requirements, contact Dan Lawrenson – firstname.lastname@example.org.