Should Rooms Move Perceptions of Healthcare?


When Mom had inpatient shoulder surgery last week, we shared an excellent healthcare experience from both sides of the procedure – except one  thing.

The Good

The pre-op nurse was very informative, but we appreciated his sense of humor most.  It was a welcome relief for mom’s anxiety.

Another nurse personally escorted me to the family waiting room, where other loved ones and I were doted on by a volunteer hostess.  The first nurse soon returned, bringing me the medical power of attorney forms that I forgot I’d even asked for earlier.  I helped myself to complimentary hot tea and wi-fi.  The director of surgical services even stopped in to check on everyone, making sure we had fresh coffee and fast Internet connections.

Mom’s surgeon was thorough in explaining how the procedure went. She patiently answered all my questions and then some – with a smile. 

Although Mom had some trouble with pain later that day and overnight, each nurse was attentive and kind to both patient and daughter until she rested comfortably.  They used the latest technology to cross-check medications with her electronic medical record. Clinically, we could not have asked for better care.

The nutritional services staff even called Mom by name each time they cheerfully brought and collected meals.  The discharge process was smooth. JCAHO and Press Ganey reps would be proud.

The Ugly

So what was wrong?  Her room betrayed every other touchpoint.  Although clean and spacious, it was very old.  Holes dotted the walls, laminate peeled back from the counter corners, furniture showed wear to the raw wood, and painted cabinetry screamed early 70s.  This was the progressive hospital the surgeon and we chose?  

In a leadership book by J. Richard Hackman, a frustrated airline executive once said, “What does a customer think if one of our tray tables is dirty?  That if they can’t even keep their tray tables clean, how well do they take care of their engines?”  Exactly.

How much should the condition of her room affect our overall impression of care? 


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