Enhancing a primary care environment: a case study of effects on patients and staff in a single general practice

Gillian Rice, Jenny Ingram, Jacques Mizan
British Journal of General Practice 2008, 58 (552): 465-70

BACKGROUND: Few studies have examined the effect on patients and staff of the physical environment in primary care facilities.

AIM: To explore changes in patient and staff satisfaction, patient anxiety, and patient-doctor communication when a GP surgery moves from old premises to enhanced purpose-built accommodation.

DESIGN OF STUDY: Questionnaire surveys, interviews, and focus groups pre- and post move.

SETTING: An urban general practice in Bristol.

METHOD: Patient questionnaires assessed anxiety (Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory; STAI), satisfaction with the environment, and communication during the consultation. Staff questionnaires assessed satisfaction with the environment and job satisfaction. Qualitative methods explored patient and staff views in more depth.

RESULTS: A total of 1118 pre-move and 954 post-move patient questionnaires showed significant increases in satisfaction scores for reception/waiting areas (mean 6.46, 95% confidence interval [CI]=5.97 to 6.95) and consulting rooms (mean 3.80, 95% CI=3.44 to 4.15) in the new premises. Patients' satisfaction with patient-doctor communication also increased (mean 0.88, 95% CI=0.30 to 1.46) and anxiety scores were significantly reduced before and after the consultation in the new premises compared with the old (STAI mean difference before consultation 0.72, 95% CI=0.37 to 1.08; mean after consultation 0.37, 95% CI=0.03 to 0.72). Patients highlighted the increased space and light, more modern appearance, greater comfort, and novel works of art in the new surgery. Staff workplace satisfaction increased significantly after moving and remained higher than in the old building.

CONCLUSION: This large-scale study examining the effects of a UK primary care environment on patients and staff shows that an enhanced environment is associated with improvements in patients' perception of patient-doctor communication, reduction in anxiety, and increases in patient and staff satisfaction.

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