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UK uses mock-ups to try out rooms for new hospital

The two patient rooms stand side by side. One, an intensive care room, has large columns for equipment that hangs down from the ceiling and can be swiveled around a patient. Another, for patients in less critical condition, has a couch that can be used by family members to spend the night.

But these rooms haven't cared for any patients. They are full-scale mock-ups of rooms that will be in the new UK hospital, which will open in spring 2011. (The new emergency room will open in 2010.)

UK is using the rooms in the College of Nursing to test equipment, make sure the furniture fits and get feedback from staff.

At the hospital now, ICU rooms and step-down rooms, as rooms for more stable patients are called, are on different floors. In the new hospital, the rooms will be on the same floor, making it easier for staff to transfer patients.

The change also will be better for patients, said Dr. Michael Karpf, executive vice president for health affairs.

"The fewer handoffs you have, the safer it is for the patient," he said.