Patient satisfaction is complex, even so, one truth is straight forward – patients expect their healthcare facility to be clean.
The Importance of Cleanliness
Facility cleanliness should be a top priority for every healthcare facility, and of course, not to the exclusion of physician practices. The very appearance of the facility and whether it reflects an environment of cleanliness has a heavy impact on patient satisfaction. A recent study from the Health Industry Distributors Association revealed that 66 percent of patients valued being able to see a commitment to infection prevention demonstrated through an overall clean environment. When patients observe an abundance of hand sanitizer, notice infection control signage, are offered face masks and other sanitation-related supplies, they begin to see the organization’s commitment to maintaining a safe, clean environment. It goes without saying, (but I’ll say it anyway, just in case), the glass on the font entry-way doors must be polished, sparkling clean, and carpet, floors, restrooms, exam rooms and the like have got to be spotless.
Leaving patients dissatisfied in the area of facility cleanness is a mistake. Half of those same respondents as referenced in the recent study from the Health Industry Distributors Association indicated that their provider didn’t meet their expectations of cleanliness (among others), with 12 percent deciding to switch providers. It’s worth noting that turnover among younger patients was even more severe.
How To Address Cleanliness in Your Office
As with most substantive change, fostering an environment of cleanliness must come from the top down and be rooted in a culture that prioritizes producing and maintaining a spotless, sanitized environment.
Your entire staff, from nurses to physicians to housekeepers, should understand the reason your facility is placing an intense focus on cleanliness. Communication and education plans should emphasize doing this in a way that centers around patient safety and fosters mutual assistance.
Whether in a small practice or large group setting, one person should spearhead and champion cleanliness initiatives. Preferably, this will fall under the responsibility of an infection preventionist. This person is responsible for communicating, educating, and getting teams and individuals cooperating toward a goal of patient safety.
Focus on the Details
While certain responsibilities, such as proper disposal of medical waste and hazardous materials will be obvious, other areas will require focus too.
Exam tables are high patient contact areas and tend to be covered with germs. While disposable covers are helpful, the entire table should be attended to after each patient visit.
Also, don’t forget “minor” touch points such as doorknobs (high contact areas), soap and hand sanitizer dispensers (which are touched by contaminated hands regularly) and exam room chairs (which are frequently occupied by sick patients and likely infrequently cleaned).
Don’t wait until complaints come in to find out how your patients feel about the cleanliness of your office –deploy a continuous patient feedback system to keep your finger on the pulse of patient perceptions. Asking your patients directly about their perceptions of safety, health and cleanliness in your practice is a simple way to gain important, actionable feedback. If you find yourself in a position where improving the state of your office is too much to handle, don’t hesitate to consider outside cleaning, laundry, and even infection control consulting solutions designed to keep your staff as free as possible and focused on caring for your patients.