UNT Health Science Center study says private hospital rooms save lives

Private Hospital Room with visible sink. (PRNewsfoto/Sae-Hwan Park from UNT - HSC)

Paying for a private hospital room more expensive? It may be worth it.

Private hospital rooms save lives by reducing the risk of a dangerous hospital-acquired infection, known as a central line infection. This was the conclusion of a new study published in PLOS ONE by Liam O’Neill, Sae-Hwan Park, and Frank Rosinia from the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

Examining discharge records for more than one million patients across 335 Texas hospitals, the research team found that patients who stayed in bay (double occupancy) rooms had 64 percent more central line infections than patients who stayed in private rooms. After adjusting for patient characteristics and risk factors, patients who stayed in bay rooms still had a 21 percent greater risk of a central line infection compared to patients assigned to private rooms. Central line infections are those acquired through central venous catheters and cause about 5,000 to 10,000 deaths each year.

Hospitals whose physical layout consisted of mostly private rooms had 33 percent fewer central line infections than hospitals with mostly bay rooms. The mortality risk due to central line infections was more than twice as high in hospitals with mostly bay rooms. A 10 percent increase in private rooms was associated with an 8 percent decrease in central line infections.

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The chance of being assigned to a private room differed significantly by race and geographic region. African-Americans were 63 percent more likely and Hispanics were 44 percent more likely to stay in bay rooms. South and west of San Antonio, hospitals are older and bay rooms still predominate. Private rooms are more prevalent in the “Texas Triangle,” that encompasses Austin, Dallas, and Houston, since this region has seen the construction of new hospitals. According to study author Liam O’Neill, “We hope that our findings will start to change the conversation in hospital board rooms from ‘How much will private rooms cost?’ to ‘How many lives will they save?’ “