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For healthcare organizations, experience remains a top priority. And it’s not just the patient experience.

According to the Beryl Institute, which just released its 10th annual “State of the Patient Experience” report and sixth annual survey of healthcare professionals and consumers, it’s the human experience that’s now a top priority.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Because patients aren’t the only ones in hospitals and clinics.

Top Priorities

The report’s author, Beryl Institute President Jason Wolf, writes that “…top priorities lead with a focus on patient experience, a commitment to the healthcare workforce with a focus on employee experience, but also staff/nurse recruitment and retention showing up as a top priority.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has made it clear how critical it is to take care of the caregivers.

Other new priorities this year are the extension of service via telemedicine and a commitment to addressing health disparities and inequity.

Ask Different Questions

The design of the physical environment has an impact on all these priorities. And yet, as I’ve said before in this blog, the Beryl Institute pretty much ignores it.

Maybe Beryl thinks the design of the physical environment isn’t important to the consumers it surveys. If they asked different questions, though, they might get different answers and insights.

Because if you’re only asking them about how important it is to have an environment that is clean and comfortable, you’re not getting the whole story.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) can do better, too. As I wrote in 2019, CMS needs to add more (and better) questions about the physical environment to its HCAHPS survey.

Part of the Culture

Perhaps the design of the physical environment is implied in Beryl’s definition of the patient experience, which is “The sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”

Organizational culture includes how the physical environment looks and feels. It communicates the values, expectations, and practices that guide and inform the actions of all those in the organization.

For example, if healthcare organizations are committed to creating a healthy building by adopting the 10 concepts of the WELL Building Standard, then they are showing their patients and staff that they care about their health and well-being, as well as the health and well-being of the people in their community. Patients will perceive them differently.

Health Impact of Climate Change

Healthcare organizations that also commit to reducing their carbon footprint by designing sustainable buildings and interiors can also impact the social determinants of health, many of which lead to health disparities and inequity.

But that’s a harder concept to wrap your head around.

Which is why organizations like Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) have been focusing on raising awareness among healthcare providers about the increasing health impact of climate change and other environmental conditions, like poor air quality.

What Can You Do?

Basically, it’s simple. No matter what you do, start by understanding what matters to those you work with or serve (the old empathy thing).

Then educate and enlighten them about how the design of the physical environment impacts what matters to them. Use the tools and resources available to you from organizations like HCWH, Practice Green Health, The Center for Health Design, International WELL Building Institute, Fitwel, U.S. Green Buildings Council, and others.

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Leave a comment



Michelle Ossmann

3 months ago

Spot on, Sara. It’s quite puzzling that so much behavior and psychology research leaves out the analysis of any setting or influence that setting has on humans. Thank you for your post!

Sara Marberry

3 months ago

Thanks, Michelle. I’ll continue to beat this drum!

Mark VanderKlipp

3 months ago

Sara, in 2020 I wrote the Beryl Body of Knowledge (BOK) course on Experience in the Built Environment. That’s available to Beryl members; it’s a POV that will help to inform those PX professionals that complete the BOK curriculum. But you’re right, it doesn’t really show up anywhere else.

Sara Marberry

3 months ago

That’s good to know, Mark. I just wish the Beryl Leadership would take a stronger stand on it.

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Sara Marberry, EDAC, is a healthcare design knowledge expert, thought catalyst, and strategic marketing and business development consultant. The author/editor of three books, Sara writes and speaks frequently about industry trends and evidence-based design. She can be reached at sara@saramarberry.com.

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