Optimizing the Patient-Centered Environment: Results of Guided Tours With Health Care Providers and Employees

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Abstract

Objective:

To examine providers’ perspectives on the care environment and patient-centered care (PCC) through the eyes of the veteran patient, using guided tours qualitative methodology.

Background:

Environmental factors, such as attractiveness and function, have the potential to improve patients’ experiences. Participatory qualitative methods allow researchers to explore the environment and facilitate discussion.

Methods:

Guided tours were conducted with 25 health care providers/employees at two Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facilities. In guided tours, participants lead the researcher through an environment, commenting on their surroundings, thoughts, and feelings. The researcher walks along with the participant, asking open-ended questions as needed to foster discussion and gain an understanding of the participant’s view. Participants were asked to walk through the facility as though they were a veteran. Tours were audio recorded, with participant permission, and transcribed verbatim by research assistants. Three qualitative researchers were responsible for codebook development and coding transcripts and used data-driven coding approaches.

Results:

Participants discussed physical appearance of the environment and how that influences perceptions about care. Overall, participants highlighted the need to shed the “institutional” appearance. Differences between VA and non-VA health care facilities were discussed, including availability of private rooms and staff to assist with navigating the facility. They reviewed resources in the facility, such as the information desk to assist patients and families. Finally, they offered suggestions for future improvements, including improvements to waiting areas and quiet areas for patients to relax and “get away” from their rooms.

Conclusions:

Participants highlighted many small changes to the care environment that could enhance the patient experience. Additionally, they examined the environment from the patient's perspective, to identify elements that enhance, or detract from, the patient's care experience.

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