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Coming Clean on the Link Between Perception of Cleanliness and Patient Satisfaction

January 2016
Author: Lisa Ellis

The healthcare community has recently come clean on an important fact: patient perception of your hospital’s cleanliness may impact their overall view of your facility much more than you’d think.

The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey provides patients an important avenue through which to share their views of your hospital’s cleaning practices. Many patients will also use their impression of your physical environment’s look and cleanliness to judge the quality of care they receive.

This makes sense if you consider that most of the elements related to the quality of care, such as training, outcomes, and collaboration, can be difficult for a layperson to adequately assess, since these occur behind-the-scenes. But such things like visible dirt or soiled bedding, or sloppy cleaning efforts by housekeeping staff, will be easily seen—and they’re sure to make a bad impression that lasts long after the issue is addressed.

So how can you make sure your facility’s cleaning and maintenance truly live up to patients’ expectations?

There are several things that you can do from a design standpoint to help make patients feel more comfortable with your cleaning efforts and ultimately increase their confidence in the care they receive.

One way to improve patients’ perception of cleanliness is to accelerate your efforts to move toward only single rooms (if you haven’t yet gone in this direction). This can be extremely helpful on a number of levels. First, patients often seem to feel their room is cleaner when they aren’t sharing their space with a stranger who has germs that could be contaminating the room. Second, single rooms are much easier to clean thoroughly in between admissions, so patients can feel more secure that the room meets the highest standards when they enter.

When designing new facilities, or renovating existing ones, you can also pay attention to the materials and surfaces to make them easier to clean and to ensure that the level of cleanliness will be easy for patients to see. Selecting rounded edges on furniture and minimizing seams in flooring and countertops can improve cleaning efforts and help your units look their best.

Further, take the time to view your facility from a patient’s vantage point, as this may help you see things in a different light. Walk through your units and shared spaces with a critical eye, looking for anything that may be off-putting to patients and their families, and be sure to have any issues taken care of right away.

Your attention to detail when it comes to cleanliness will send the message loud and clear that your staff truly cares about patients and their safety—and it’s likely that the patient satisfaction rating will reflect your efforts.

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