- When approaching the issue of patient satisfaction, healthcare leaders often focus on the patient-provider relationship. However, improvements in hospital environments may also have a great impact on the patient experience and satisfaction with their treatment.
Between industry surveys such as HCAHPS and the CMS hospital star ratings, hospital leaders have plenty of incentive to improve patient satisfaction. Beyond that, leaders likely want to boost patient retention to help drive the hospital revenue cycle.
In order to support efforts to improve patient satisfaction, hospital leaders can enact several different fixes. Although changing an entire hospital environment is no small task, these improvements may help lead to a better hospital culture.
Foster a culture of friendliness
Providers are often reminded of the importance of positive communication and empathy to improve patient satisfaction. However, healthcare experts say this culture of friendliness should also extend to hospital support staff.
According to the American Hospital Association, hospitals can improve their environment by encouraging all staff members to be friendly and approachable. These efforts can help boost patient comfort levels.
“Hospitals and health systems that are involving all staff in patient experience improvement efforts—including facility professionals—are trying different approaches,” the organization explains. “Some facility professionals, for example, are making rounds to patient rooms asking if patients are comfortable and if there is anything they need.”
Hospital leaders could improve practice culture by implementing such a strategy and encouraging all staff members to positively interact with patients and visitors.
Implement and enforce hospital policies that benefit patients
Certain hospital policies may also have an effect on hospital environments. Noise policies, for example, could affect patient comfort, AHA says.
According to AHA, hospital noise levels is one of the lowest-scoring categories on the survey. By implementing quiet hours or installing sound-absorbing materials in busy hospital areas such as nursing stations, hospitals can help improve this element of patient satisfaction.
Other policies, such as bedside control of room temperature, lighting, and temperature all may have a similar effect, AHA says.
These policies could improve patient satisfaction as well as speed up recovery times. When patients are more comfortable, they may be more likely to get rest and recover more quickly.
Keep hospital spaces clean and safe
While it may seem natural for hospitals to be kept clean, ideally preventing any spread of infection, it is important for hospital leaders to reiterate that notion to staff.
Considering floor layout and room design may help providers and hospital staff keep patient spaces cleaner. According to the Center for Health Design, a patient advocacy group, strategic placement of sinks and hand sanitizers can help make a difference.
“Providing numerous, conveniently located alcohol-rub dispensers or washing sinks can increase compliance,” the group wrote in a paper on hospital environments and patient satisfaction. “In particular, the evidence suggests that installing alcohol-based hand-cleaner dispensers at bedside usually improves adherence.”
Improving staff adherence to cleanliness and safety protocol can help patients feel more at ease about care quality. Likewise, ensuring a clean and safe hospital environment may help patients heal faster, potentially leaving them more satisfied with the care they received.
Improving hospital navigability may also improve patient satisfaction. While it is unrealistic to expect hospitals to completely renovate their floor plans, AHA says they can install signs and hospital maps to help patients know where they are going.
“Many patients feel a loss of control when they are hospitalized. They may be afraid, uncomfortable or anxious,” AHA explains. “Providing patients with more control can help improve their experiences. Proper wayfinding and signage in hospitals, for example, can help patients navigate a new setting without adding stress.”
Include patients in the hospital design process
In the age of patient engagement, hospitals can work to consider the patient perspective in all aspects of care. That can include the design process.
When Nemours Children’s Health System built its Orlando and Delaware locations, hospital leaders consulted with families to find out what room designs would work best for them.
“The parents came in and tested all of the furniture that they might be sleeping on in the rooms,” said Bernie Rice, chief information officer at Nemours, in an interview. “They provided input into what we actually purchased.”
The health system also worked to incorporate the pediatric patients into the design process to ensure the construction of the rooms would be enjoyable and navigable for them.
“The children came in as well and helped pick colors and room layouts, such if the counter was too high,” Rice explained. “So they were very valuable and heavily influenced our construction and design to make sure that it was a very family- and patient-friendly type of environment.”
It is the smaller aspects – such as counter height or comfort of a makeshift bed – that can make all of the difference during a care encounter. When patients and caregivers feel comfortable in their rooms, their satisfaction is likely to increase. By collecting design input from patients, hospital leaders take the guesswork out of ideal design, ultimately leading to better results.
As the healthcare industry continues to move toward more patient-centric approaches, it will be important that hospital leaders understand how their facilities affect this. Increasingly, industry leaders are valuing patient satisfaction. In order to ensure future success, hospital leaders may want to consider environmental improvements to help improve satisfaction rates.