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How to Improve Patient Satisfaction Through the Healthcare Physical Environment

Now more than ever, patients have become more like consumers, and medical purchasing power has shifted from providers and insurers to the individual. This change has created a unique marketplace for healthcare services, which places a heightened emphasis on patient care as well as the physical environment's role in patient perception of the quality of care offered.

Increasingly the results of patient satisfaction surveys are publicly released, so your potential patients can now access reviews of your health facilities before they decide to use your services. This shift has created a large financial impact as well. Thirty percent of decisions regarding Medicare and insurance reimbursement are now intricately tied to patient satisfaction scores on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey used by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

All this means that a well-maintained healthcare physical environment is essential to improving the patient experience and your facilities satisfaction scores. Here we discuss how to improve patient satisfaction through the healthcare physical environment.

The Research

Research on the healthcare physical environment has examined the effects of architecture, interior design, furniture placement, art, lighting, building materials, building systems, and maintenance programs that directly affect the patient experience. In fact, more than 600 studies have linked the hospital environment to factors such as patient satisfaction, stress, health outcomes, and overall health care quality. By working across multiple factors influencing the patient experience and by using evidence-based design, hospital and health facility leaders can assert greater control over their organization’s HCAHPS scores.

Patient satisfaction scores are now one of the most significant metrics for attracting and retaining patients, maximizing reimbursement, and achieving better outcomes. Hospitals and health systems can ensure a positive patient experience by providing well-maintained environments in which people feel safe, comfortable and confident in the care they receive.

Beyond the quality of medical care, patient experience is hugely impacted by the quality of the healthcare physical environment, the management of facilities, and the maintenance of assets. According to a report by the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE), patient experience comprises three important and related factors: people, process and place.

This indicates that care staff, patient-centered operations and well-designed facilities are the keys to providing a best-in-class patient experience.

Implement the People, Process, Place Model

In its research report, the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) recommends using the “people, process, place” model to address patient satisfaction concerns. For example, if the hospital facility team wants to improve quietness scores, it can implement this model using the following tactics:

  • People: Take a team approach that recognizes every member of staff as part of the care team.
    • Develop a noise-reduction campaign, identify target goals and support a culture of caring.
  • Process: Create policies that consider the impact on patients and staff.
    • Create a cellphone use policy for visitors and supply patients with earplugs and TV headphones.
  • Place: Consider how the physical environment affects the patient experience.
    • Use sound-absorbing materials, eliminate overhead paging and maintain equipment to avoid squeaks.

Perception is Everything

ASHE's report emphasises patient perception of the healthcare environment as one of the top indicators that influence how a particular patient will rate his or her experience. Therefore, it is wise to focus on controlling patient perception. For example, incorporating natural light and views of nature into hospital design can reduce the perception of pain, and providing successful wayfinding can contribute to higher overall ratings.

Understanding the connection between the physical appearance of a healthcare facility and patient satisfaction can have a lasting impact on both a hospital's performance and its ability to provide exceptional community health.

Patients spend less than 1 percent of their time in the lobby, yet hospitals spend a large percentage of their financial resources on improvements to the public entryway. In actual fact, patients spend 99 percent of their time in area that include: inpatient rooms, operating rooms, outpatient clinics, exam and procedure rooms, as well as support areas. In addition, other non-clinical areas like public circulation, elevator banks, check-in and reception counters, and administrative areas contribute to the patient's perception. Shifting your improvement efforts from the lobby to patient rooms will positively impact patience experience and satisfaction.

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Improving key details can make a big impact on your healthcare institution's next HCAHPS survey. Focus on areas such as proper lighting, quality doorways and corridors, functioning medical equipment and noise levels. Patients take in all of these factors when they evaluate their care experience.

Ready to improve patient satisfaction at your health facility? Contact us >


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Eagle, Amy. "Building Patient Satisfaction," HFM Magazine,

Ferenc, Jeff, "Study tests one way to change patient room design and satisfaction," HFM Magazine,

Kenney, Lynn, "HCAHPS Scores, the Patient Experience, and the Affordable Care Act from the Facility Perspective," American Society for Healthcare Engineers (ASHE),

Kenney, Lynn and Deanna Martin, "Improving the Patient Experience Through the Health Care Physical Environment," American Hospital Association (AHA) and American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE),

Morgan, Jamie. "Physical Environments and High-Quality Care," HFM Magazine,

Martin, Deanna, "The Facility Manager's Role in Patient Satisfaction," HFM Magazine,

Morgan, Jamie, "Design Impact on Patient Satisfaction," HFM Magazine,

Ulrich, R. and Zimring, C., "The role of the physical environment in the hospital of the 21st century: A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Report to the Center for Health Design,