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How Hospital Environments Affect Patient Satisfaction Levels

To improve patient satisfaction, hospitals should improve personal patient relationships, hospital policies affecting patients, and the environment in which patients receive care.

- Hospitals should take a three-pronged approach to improve patient satisfaction and patient experience, according to the American Hospital Association (AHA).

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In a new publication, Improving the Patient Experience through the Healthcare Physical Environment, AHA presents its people, process, and place theory with regard to improving patient satisfaction on a holistic level, which entails improving the interpersonal connections between hospital staffs and patients, the policies and procedures in the hospital, and the environment of the hospital.

Understanding how these factors relate to patient satisfaction is important, the organizations explains. The healthcare industry is quickly transitioning to patient-centered models, and satisfaction measures like the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey are influencing value-based payment models and hospital reputations.

“Hospitals and health systems are working to improve patient scores measured through the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey,” AHA explains. “By using the ‘people, process, place’ model outlined in this guide, hospital and health system leaders can identify the many complex variables that affect the patient experience.”

These three components are interdependent, AHA says. Without strong patient-provider relationships, it does not matter if the hospital has good procedure and a comforting environment. As such, hospital leaders and workers must recognize strategies to improve in all three areas and understand how each of the three areas affects the others.

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Below is a breakdown of AHA’s people, process, and place theory, detailing how hospitals can improve its overall environment to boost patient satisfaction:

People

The main tenant of the people aspect of patient satisfaction is strong bedside manner and interpersonal skills. While physicians and other healthcare providers have repeatedly heard about the importance of good patient-provider communication and physician empathy, AHA says strong interpersonal skills on the part of hospital staffers is also important.

“Hospitals and health systems that are involving all staff in patient experience improvement efforts—including facility professionals—are trying different approaches,” AHA notes. “Some facility professionals, for example, are making rounds to patient rooms asking if patients are comfortable and if there is anything they need.”

Involving facility professionals requires a hospitality mindset where staff are primarily concerned with the comfort and needs of the consumer. By asking about room temperature or how the patient is feeling, staff can help boost the overall patient impression.

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Process

Hospital processes and policies are vital to satisfaction because of the indirect effects they can have on patients. Policies about paging physicians and nurses or where cell phones can be used affect the noise level of the hospital, for example, and therefore affects the comfort of the patient.

“Hospitals and health systems are complex organizations with many policies and processes that affect patients directly,” AHA states.

Implementing easy-to-fix policies such as better room temperature controls can make a significant difference in patient comfort, thus also raising their satisfaction.

Place

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Place, or the physical environment of a hospital, is the third component to AHA’s patient satisfaction approach. Creating a comfortable place for patients to get well again is integral in ensuring that they will leave the hospital with a positive outlook.

“Research on how the physical environment affects health outcomes began in the 1980s. More than 600 studies have linked the hospital-built environment to factors such as patient satisfaction, stress, health outcomes and overall health care quality,” AHA explained.

Overarching factors in hospital environment include noise levels, patient and pain management, and environmental factors inhibiting or facilitating communication.

These factors all tie together, AHA maintains. When an environment is too noisy, patients may have a hard time getting sleep or being comfortable, inhibiting their abilities to recover. This may also limit communication.

The organization also touches upon the organization and cleanliness of the hospital. Easy-to-navigate hospital layouts are crucial for keeping patients comfortable and at ease during their stay, and cleanliness creates a calmer atmosphere.

While it may be difficult to boil down patient satisfaction to an exact science, AHA says providers can focus on these three overlapping factors to create an overall boost in patient experience. Taking this holistic approach helps mitigate different problems which may be interrelated.

“To help improve patient satisfaction, hospital and health system leaders should ensure they are taking a holistic, team approach that uses their organization’s available resources—including the health care physical environment and the professionals who manage those spaces,” AHA concludes.

“By considering the people, processes and places that affect the patient experience, health care leaders can help their organizations meet important patient satisfaction goals.”

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