How the Perception of Cleanliness Impacts Patient Experience

Imagine you were going to dinner at a new restaurant. It has a high health inspection grade posted by the door and was recommended by a trusted friend.

But once you get inside, you notice the forks have crusted bits of food on them. And the first server you see is wiping his nose on his sleeve. You’re scared to even check and see what’s going on in the bathrooms.

If you’re like most of us, you would probably leave before you ordered an appetizer. And it’s not because you know for a fact how many germs per square inch are lurking in the kitchen. It’s because they place just doesn’t seem very clean. That is, you do not perceive it to be clean.

Just like this invented restaurant, every patient who enters a hospital has a perception of how clean that healthcare facility is. And this perception of cleanliness can have a direct impact on how that patient perceives the care they receive in that facility.

Perception Can Outweigh Reality

Just like your perception of a restaurant may stop you from eating there -- even if they have been recently inspected -- the perception of cleanliness in a healthcare facility can lead patients to report negatively on their time in that facility. This has become abundantly clear since the implementation of HCAHPS, which asks patients to rate both perception of cleanliness and level of care.

While there can be a range of reasons that patients may feel a facility that looks unclean is not offering a high level of patient care, one is simply that perception of cleanliness is something that is easy for a patient on their own to recognize and rate. It takes no special training to see stains on bed linens or visible streaks and smears on floors and other surfaces. This same patient is unable to see the thorough infection control training methods a facility employs or the attention to detail medical staff provide. Patients can only offer feedback on what they can understand, and whether they feel they have a clean room is something they can easily understand. 

How to Achieve a Clean Facility that is Perceived That Way

According to the Center for Health Design, “ Successfully achieving certain levels of cleanliness requires an interdisciplinary approach that involves the building design, operational and policy changes, education of personnel, and cultural changes to the organization.”

Yes, the design and construction of a facility can actually have a measurable impact on the facility’s cleanliness. One of the most effective ways to improve patient perception of cleanliness is something that many facilities are already doing and that is moving towards more single patient rooms. Not only are smaller single patient rooms easier to clean, patients are also more likely to report a private room as being clean, since there is not a stranger and the germs of that stranger to contend with. Further, the age of the facility is also reported on the HCAHPS, meaning that new hospital construction and renovation projects can also improve perception of cleanliness scores and ultimately patient experience.

For more information on how to build a facility that improves patient experience, be sure to download our guide below.

View Catalog

Subscribe by email

Download our pricing guide