Better Healing Environments, Higher Patient Satisfaction Scores

With dwindling revenue at stake, the impact of patient satisfaction scores on reimbursements has healthcare providers reconsidering how their physical environment might be hurting the patient experience, operations and revenue. We do know that your patients’ experience starts even before they walk through your doors — an unkempt lawn, chipped door frame, unclear signage, speed of service, all hint at the kind of care they’ll receive from you.

Note that patients aren’t the only ones swaying satisfaction scores: While you’re tending to patients, their loved ones are watching, sitting for hours or days, memorizing your physical environment, observing staff interactions, noting inefficiencies, and sometimes filling out satisfaction surveys on behalf of the patient.

“As the face of healthcare is reshaped, so should our thinking about the design process,” writes Doug Dulin, a healthcare building design consultant, for Health Facilities Management. Efficient building design is one that eliminates waste, he argues — we’re talking needless expenses, processes, effort or steps that deliver zero benefits to patients, visitors, staff, or your bottom line.

Nowhere are the effects of the physical environment felt more than in the intensive care unit (ICU), reports Debra Levin in Healthcare Design. The ICU is not only home to your most fragile patients, but also “an array of specialized equipment, complex technologies, and staff who are frequently faced with critical decisions that need to be made in a split-second and followed with swift and efficient actions.”

To achieve an environment that enhances patient experience and ROI, Dulin advises you cultivate two habits. (This isn’t an all-inclusive list, of course, but a great start.)

Assessing workflows

Where do bottlenecks and waste exist today? How long does it take a patient to receive care, and how many hoops must patients and staff jump through? How often does front-desk staff have to get up, call someone, switch tasks or technologies in the course of their day? Which steps could you eliminate with more visible signage, better placement of supplies and documents, integrated technology, or automated communications?

Prioritizing patient value above all else

All processes, design, tools and technologies in your facility should improve patient safety, comfort and healing. If you can’t tie something to a patient benefit, reconsider its value, or how it’s used.

“Innovations in the creation of patient value expand the scope from core clinical processes to consider a wide array of issues,” writes Dulin, “including patient preferences, technological possibilities, financial arrangements and integrated patient journeys.”

Components your peers have tweaked or upgraded to achieve the above include:

  • Layout of patient rooms, family zones, waiting areas.
  • Storage for medical devices, supplies, documentation.
  • Lighting (including adequate night lighting for safe medication prep, bathroom use).
  • Sound masking and visual communications to counter noise complaints, particular in the ICU.
  • Clear or more visible signage, integrated communications, automated alerts/notifications.
  • Ability to reach all intended audiences with relevant messages in an instant, no matter their location, distractions, or communications barriers – particularly during an emergency when people have just moments to react.
  • Automating all that can be automated, from staff scheduling to training, operational and emergency alerts.

What is one recurring issue hindering patient experience, throughput, and staff productivity today? What will you do to eliminate it?

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