Evaluating the total cost of ownership of privacy screens versus curtains | Silentia

Evaluating the total cost of ownership of privacy screens versus curtains

At Silentia, we often encounter the assumption that hospital privacy curtains are the cheaper, easier solution compared to our privacy screens. The truth is when considering the long-term benefits, costs, and resource savings—the total cost of ownership—privacy curtains come at a much higher cost to hospitals.

For more than 30 years, Silentia has been working with hospitals around the world to replace curtains and develop new hospital spaces that never need them to begin with. In that time, we have worked alongside health care teams to better understand the true costs of our privacy screens as well as those associated with cloth and disposable privacy curtains.

What is the Total Cost of Ownership?

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is a term used to describe the overall costs, both direct and indirect, of a product over its complete life cycle. It is much more than a comparison of product purchase prices.

Typically, TCO is calculated as the sum of many different types of costs. For the purposes of comparison, we are focusing on five costs where notable differences occur:

  • Purchase cost
  • Cleaning cost
  • Disposal cost
  • Maintenance cost
  • Quality deficiency cost

TCO Comparison: Privacy Screens vs. Privacy Curtains

To accurately evaluate the TCO for each privacy solution, consideration must be made for the full life cycle of the products—purchase, usage, cleaning, maintenance, and disposal—as well as the ongoing costs as a result of that solution—replacement materials, storage, and patient infections from contaminated materials. In simpler terms, it’s a way to evaluate the quality and ability of a product over its complete lifetime compared to all the costs that go into making it function as a solution.

By comparing each of these cost areas, we can demonstrate that hard surface privacy screens are less costly overall compared to privacy curtains, and that privacy screens provide resource savings as well as waste reduction at nearly every step.

We are using contributed research and experience from our work with the infection control team at Rigshospitalet, Denmark, and the EVS team at Odense University Hospital, Denmark. In each facility, we compared a 2-patient room with either one privacy curtain or one privacy screen.


Purchase costs

Hospital curtains come at a low initial cost for the individual products, but an ongoing and frequently recurring one. On the other hand, privacy screens have a higher initial cost but a product lifetime of at least 10 years, which eventually results in a return of that value.

Privacy curtains:

⋅ Lower initial purchase cost
⋅ Curtains
⋅ Tracks
⋅ Hardware
⋅ Installation
⋅ Restock/reorder costs

Privacy screens:

⋅ Higher initial purchase cost
⋅ Screen with trolley or clamps
⋅ Installation
⋅ No additional cost after an initial purchase
⋅ Guaranteed technical product lifetime of at least 10 years

Cleaning & disposal costs

Privacy curtains can be contaminated and harbor bacteria, then transfer it when it comes in contact with the nursing staff or patients’ hands or clothing. New patients can get infected without proper sanitation or replacement when they inherit old patients’ curtains.

The fact that disposable privacy curtains are replaced and not reused or washed does not mean they need no cleaning. Since thoroughly cleaning soiled disposable curtains is impossible, replacement is essential to avoid cross-contamination. If an outbreak or a severe infection occurs, healthcare guidelines recommend using fresh curtains for each patient. In this case, disposable curtains are not cost-effective.

Privacy curtains are difficult to handle, and removing and rehanging them usually requires a number of steps. Reusable curtains are often taken to another location for washing and cleaning and then brought back. Also, disposable curtains only last for six months and require removal for incineration or safe disposal. These processes waste time and incur a cost, as well as interrupt the patient care workflow.

Privacy screens, however, are simple to handle and cleaning them is easy and fast. Hospital cleaners can use any disinfectants to clean them at the floor level and in place. Hence, privacy screens save cleaning and replacement costs and give a good return on investment.

Silentia privacy screens help control infection by preventing the occurrence of Healthcare Acquired Infections (HAIs). The surfaces are hard and easily cleanable, and their exclusive design makes them suitable for the clinical environment. Hence privacy screens are a better alternative to hospital curtains.

Privacy curtains

⋅ Costs for removal/relocation of patient from the room
⋅ Costs for transporting cloth curtains to/from offsite laundry
⋅ Costs for transporting disposable curtains to incinerator/garbage
⋅ Costs for laundry machines, chemicals, and water for cloth curtains
⋅ Costs for labor for takedown, removal, transportation, and laundering
⋅ Estimated clean time: 1 hour (plus more for transportation/processing)

Privacy screens

⋅ Wiped with typical disinfectant wipes already being used to clean other surfaces
⋅ Cleaned in the room
⋅ Patient does not need to be removed
⋅ Designed to be reused/repurposed, never disposed
⋅ Estimated clean time: 180 seconds (folding screen); 90 seconds (bed end screen)

HAIs & the cost of contamination

The CDC reported in 2015 that U.S hospitals spend an estimated $28.4 to $45 billion per year on treating HAIs. With proper medical and cleaning practices, healthcare facilities can reduce the cost of treating HAIs by 20%.

Maintenance & quality deficiency costs

Curtains are designed to be used temporarily, then discarded. By design, they are not built to withstand the stress or strain that may occur while in use, nor are they meant to serve as a long-term solution for privacy.

Privacy screens, however, continuously offer quality protection over their lifetime. Silentia screens are made from high-pressure laminate and lightweight aluminum that stands up to constant cleaning, bumping, and other wear and tear they may be subject to during use. They are built to last a long time and are less likely to require replacement or repair. Should repair be necessary, the design allows for any damaged or affected panel or part to be individually replaced. Due to its lower maintenance costs, the privacy screen will serve a better return on investment.

Privacy curtains

⋅ Costs for storage of additional inventory
⋅ Costs for replacement parts
⋅ Costs for full product replacement due to tears, stains, or other damage

Privacy screens

⋅ No storage for additional inventory necessary
⋅ Two-year warranty for broken or damaged parts
⋅ Silentia partnership reviews and frequent product check-ups

Silentia screens are better for your budget

By comparing the total cost of ownership of Silentia privacy screens with the high operational costs of washing and replacing curtains, plus the potential costs of HAIs, it’s clear that screens are a less costly solution.

Depending upon how frequently you clean and change your curtains, a return on privacy screen spend can happen within 3 years:

⋅ Quarterly curtain cleaning/changing = Costs of privacy screens covered within 3 years
⋅ Monthly curtain cleaning/changing = Costs of privacy screens covered within 2 years
⋅ Weekly curtain cleaning/changing = Costs of privacy screens covered within 1 year

Silentia privacy screens contribute to infection prevention, promote more frequent cleaning, are durable, and are easy to handle, saving hospitals valuable costs and time. Let us calculate your return with Silentia privacy screens and see how quickly you can see a return.

Read more