The Doctor is in. Or is it an environmental services staff member?

A new study finds hospital patients and visitors find it difficult to visually identify roles in a healthcare setting.

Imagine you've just awoken from surgery and groggily open your eyes to search for the closest nurse. You spot an employee wearing blue scrubs and call them over to get an update on your condition only to find out they're actually an environmental services (EVS) member. The employee tells you they'll find a nurse. Meanwhile, your anesthesia is beginning to wear off and you're still waiting for the EVS member to track down the nurse who has to track down the doctor to authorize more pain medication.

Identification plays a vital role in the patient experience at healthcare facilities. Patient satisfaction scores come from response time. This begins from the moment a patient makes a request. If they're unable to identify the nurse or doctor, the clock continues to tick, while your Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores suffer. In December 2014, Cintas Corporation commissioned a study, conducted online by Harris Poll, which found more than two-thirds of U.S. adults said that being able to easily identify an employee's role would improve their experience at a hospital. A well-defined uniform program will help make employees easily identifiable to hospital patients and visitors.

Curb the Confusion

Within many medical facilities, scrubs are worn by employees in several departments, even if they don't provide direct medical care. The 2014 study found that 83 percent of U.S. adults find it difficult to identify employees within a hospital setting. Because there are few distinguishing attributes between the various roles, it can be challenging for patients, or families and visitors of the patient, to identify the appropriate staff member. According to the study, 68 percent of U.S. adults find it difficult to determine the roles of hospital employees based on their uniforms with 64 percent assuming an employee wearing scrubs is part of the clinical staff (e.g., nurse, physician, tech and therapist).

Providing easier identification of hospital personnel can directly impact how patients and visitors perceive hospital staff. Patient satisfaction scores are growing ever more important to healthcare facilities. As more hospital executives look to improve their HCAHPS scores, a specially developed uniform program sets the tone of a patient's visit, delivering a consistent message of coordinated efficiency, professional performance and organizational pride. With color coded scrubs and job appropriate uniforms for non-clinical departments, employees will look great and patients will notice and appreciate the improved image of the hospital.

Hospitals can make employees easily identifiable by job function by developing a uniform program that provides different apparel solutions based on the job function, designed with the brand colors in mind. Since employees in the admitting department are often the first staff member to greet patients, outfitting them in suits, blouses or dress pants will help make a good first impression. To keep nurses and environmental services staff comfortable, implement color coded scrub and tunic programs with high-performance technology, such as moisture wicking to keep them comfortable as they move from room to room. Meanwhile, polos are an excellent option to help dietary and nutrition employees look their best while interacting with patients and visitors. Many hospital administrators opt to work with a uniform provider to implement an apparel program that fits their needs from both a functional and brand image standpoint to help patients and visitors easily identify staff.

Sense of Security Improves Patient Experience

In January 2015, a teenager was caught pretending to be a doctor at a Florida OB/GYN office. Dressed in a white lab coat and wearing a stethoscope around his neck, the teen masqueraded as a doctor for a month. Imagine the patients' shock when they learned the individual dressed like a doctor was actually an imposter.

Security and trust are critical elements for success in any healthcare facility. The study revealed that 41 percent of U.S. adults would feel safer in a hospital setting if healthcare workers were more easily identifiable by their uniforms. By implementing color-coded medical scrubs, it makes it simple for patients and their family members to easily identify hospital staff members within their roles and responsibilities. This would also improve the patient's sense of security and overall experience, resulting in better HCAHPS scores.

Improve Patient and HCAHPS Scores

Hospital visitors and patients often have a world of worries running through their heads, and when they're unable to clearly identify a hospital employee, it adds unnecessary stress. Hospitals can eliminate this stress for patients by implementing a uniform program that makes employees easily identifiable. As illustrated in the Harris Poll results, doing so could have a positive impact on a hospital's HCAHPS scores.

John Savage is Healthcare Marketing Director for Cintas Corporation.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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