The halo effect is a cognitive bias in which an observer's overall impression of a person, company, brand, or product influences their feelings and thoughts about that entity's character or properties.
Put simply: “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression,” and healthcare is no exception to this rule.
The halo effect is an unconscious judgment. When we judge something, we run through a process of analysis and critical thinking; however, a significant part of the judgment is also performed unconsciously.
In hospitals, the halo effect of great nursing care is often discussed in relation to overall patient satisfaction. This is clearly true, since nursing staff will typically have the most interaction with patients. What is often lost in this discussion is that the patient notices and evaluates a great many environmental issues before any significant experience of nursing takes place.
Five Key Strategies
- First Impressions
Must be "top class" all the time: The impact of poorly cleaned rooms is impossible to overstate. Everybody will notice if a room is dirty or messy. Extra focus is always required on bathrooms, even if a patient is not using theirs on a regular basis. There is a major body of evidence confirming that a well thought-out cleaning process will help to reduce HAI counts. If you have to reduce costs, make cleaning the last choice and not the first. And make sure you remember the hallways, public spaces, admitting, ED, and the cafeteria. Everywhere must be spotless at all times.
Rooms cleaned and checked daily: Make sure every room is thoroughly cleaned every day. Make sure you have an effective check cleaning process in place for second shift.
Consistent high-gloss floors: You can get by with a well-done medium gloss, but don’t forget most people equate shiny with clean, have a routine for patient rooms. They get tough traffic and typically do not get enough attention.
Hotel finish: The results have to be as least as good as a four-star hotel. That means all the little cosmetic touches, such as folding toilet paper, are also necessary. The daily cost for a hospital room far exceeds a hotel, so make sure the appearance communicates high quality.Outsourcing: These are well-established and competitive services nationally. So, for the in-house operation with unsatisfactory results, there are plenty of options; and for a hospital that is outsourced, there are plenty of options to ensure you reach and sustain excellence.
Cosmetic maintenance: Engineering departments have a wide range of priorities and pressures. Ensure you have staff dedicated to cosmetic maintenance. You don’t want to walk into a supposedly nice hotel room and be confronted with shoddy maintenance, so don’t expect patients and visitors to put up with that in your hospital.
Ceiling tiles: We hear a lot about ceiling tiles, since the regulatory inspectors frequently complain about them. Don’t wait for the regulators before you put them right: your paying guests are going to spend a lot of time studying those stained dirty or loose tiles. This is one of the key cosmetic maintenance items.
Chipped Paintwork: Another key cosmetic item. Yes, the doors get hard traffic; yes, the rooms get knocked around by equipment and beds. You simply need to plan and staff the process adequately in order to provide the patient and visitor experience desired.
3. First Impressions
Wall signage: Ensure your signage is professionally consistent, printed and minimal. Instruct your housekeeping staff to remove any handmade signs. Apply this standard to both patient and non-patient areas so everyone becomes accustomed to maintaining the higher standard at all times.
Furniture: Make sure all furniture is in good repair and looks good. Don’t tolerate tears or scratches.
Clutter: Ensure rooms are not overcrowded. Don’t just clear out the hallways when the regulators appear; make sure you have a strategy to keep them clear and calm all the time.
Art Work: Invest in art work. Art has a therapeutic impact for patients, visitors, and staff. The hospital’s approach to art needs to be well thought-out and managed over time.
Staff: No staff on their breaks in public spaces.
Paging: No overhead paging; overall noise should be kept low.
Volume: Staff should use low voices.
Nursing: No audible nursing station-to-hallway discussions.
Visual Reader: Consider a visual decibel reader.
Room service: There is no longer any reason for not providing full room service. It is often more cost-effective, and it always delivers huge customer satisfaction. Even if such an approach is more expensive, a well-executed room service operation will improve patient experience results.
Variety: Design the menu carefully. There are many resources to ensure you have an appropriate and appealing menu.
Service: Just dropping off a meal tray is unacceptable. Set the table up, check that everything is OK with the patient, and so on. Their food must be delivered and presented as if they were in a top quality restaurant.Outsourcing: This is a well established and competitive service nationally. For the in-house operation with unsatisfactory results, there are plenty of options; and for a hospital that is outsourced, there are plenty of options to ensure you reach and sustain excellence.
See our video on why the hospital environment is one of The 9 Approaches to Improving Patient Satisfaction, along with the rest of the series:
The hospital environment is 1 of The 9 Approaches to Improving Patient Satisfaction. Download the eBook here.