When facility professionals discuss ways they can improve patient satisfaction, they often home in on just two areas of the 32-question HCAHPS survey: cleanliness and quietness. After all, how can facility professionals help to manage patient pain? How can they promote better communication between clinicians and patients?

In fact, the health care physical environment can improve the patient experience in all of these areas. Every question on the HCAHPS exam is related to the health care physical environment. A new Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence (HPOE) guide produced by the American Hospital Association in collaboration with ASHE details ways hospital leaders can use the physical environment to improve the patient experience. You can download a free copy of the guide, “Improving the Patient Experience Through the Health Care Physical Environment,” at www.ashe.org/patientexperience.

It explains how the health care physical environment is tied to the patient experience in a variety of ways. For example, research has shown that patients who have a view of nature — or even a picture of a landscape scene — require fewer doses of pain medication than those who look at plain walls or abstract art. Using sound-absorbing material on ceilings, floors and walls can improve quietness scores, but can also lead to improved patient scores on questions related to discharge instructions. Research also shows a correlation between the placement of hand-washing sinks and clinical communication — when caregivers can maintain eye contact with patients while washing up, patients rate clinical communication higher.

The guide advocates a “people, process, place” approach to improving satisfaction. This model helps to identify people-centered ways to improve the patient experience through establishing a culture of caring; implementing process improvements, such as those that support patients and staff; and making improvements to the place of care, including the hospital physical environment, technology and furniture. By working with people, processes and place, health care leaders can take a more holistic approach to improving the patient experience.

Facility professionals can share the new HPOE guide with hospital and health system leaders to promote their contributions to the patient experience. In addition to the HPOE guide, ASHE also created a monograph titled “HCAHPS Scores, the Patient Experience, and the Affordable Care Act from the Facility Perspective.” ASHE members can download a free copy of the monograph at www.ashe.org/monographs.

Deanna Martin is the membership and communications director at the American Society for Healthcare Engineering.


Important monographs available from ASHE

Following are two recently released monographs that can be accessed by ASHE members as free PDFs at www.ashe.org/resourcelibrary.

HCAHPS Scores, the Patient Experience, and the Affordable Care Act from the Facility Perspective. This new ASHE monograph explores how the health care physical environment and facility professionals can improve patient satisfaction scores.

Risk Assessment of Medical Equipment. A key part of the Joint Commission’s environment of care management plans, risk assessments of medical equipment are covered in this new ASHE monograph. It presents a framework for facilities professionals to follow.

Design guidelines available to industry through ASHE

The 2014 editions of the Facility Guidelines Institute’s Guidelines for Design and Construction of Hospitals and Outpatient Facilities and the Guidelines for Design and Construction of Residential Health, Care, and Support Facilities can be purchased at www.ASHEstore.com.