Focus: Patient Satisfaction/Experience

Three ways to keep facilities clean smelling to increase patient satisfaction

By Todd Lappi / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
December 5, 2017

Cleanliness is an important factor when indicating the quality of a hospital – and an area that patients are asked to rate and evaluate. In fact, the experience that patients have in a hospital is increasingly being tied to reimbursement, which means that organizations must closely review every element of the patient experience ranging from the check-in process to the cleanliness of all areas of the hospital.

While organizations think extensively about keeping the restroom clean – there is one thing that is not always thought about: smell. In fact, according to a 2013 study conducted by GP PRO entitled “Inside the Stall research,” restroom odor continues to be the number two reason for public restroom dissatisfaction. This is why it’s more important than ever that healthcare facilities focus their efforts on odor control to help patients feel more comfortable while on the road to a speedy recovery. Here are three ways to keep your restrooms clean and free of bad scents to make sure patients have the best experience possible.

  1. Create the best first impression

Smell has such a primal impact, it actually transforms perception. We’ve all done it before – gone into a restroom and seen or smelled an odor and immediately walked out with no desire to ever return. In fact, according to a 2016 GP PRO survey, people consider hygiene a reflection of an overall business and 65% of people will tell someone if an establishment’s restroom smells bad. Like a job interview or meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time, a healthcare facility should come prepared to look and smell the best to put patients at ease.

When looking for a way to combat odor, healthcare facilities should look for solutions that not only create a fresh scent, but also neutralize odor inside the stall and the wall. Neutralizing odor will eliminate bad smells at the source and make sure restroom users do not associate disagreeable odors with uncleanliness. The trick is to get as close to the bad smell source as possible and stop it from spreading.

Being able to both neutralize and provide a clean scent at the source, will create a great first impression to all restroom users and can increase patient morale and satisfaction.

  1. Diffuse the situation

Seventy-one percent of people prefer a pleasant scent to no scent at all while in the restroom. Having a product that both neutralizes the odor, as well as changes the scent can positively impact patient experience.

In fact, one of our clients, a 166,000-square-foot level IV trauma center in North Dakota had a problem with odor – but not in the way you might think. Like any other hospital, they had the usual odor issues and they did their best to stay on top of them. The bigger problem was with the aerosol air freshener cans the hospital was using to combat the odor. Not only were the cans being stolen---they were being sprayed excessively by visitors, patients and staff. And because the cinnamon scent constantly hung in the air, it created an odor problem all its own, leaving users with a distasteful experience. It truly was a sticky situation. Between the aerosol cans being stolen and sprayed excessively, it was a nightmare for the EVS staff maintaining the restrooms.

This client reached out to us to help find a solution and we helped diffuse the situation by providing them with GP PRO’s ActiveAire® System, a suite of air care products that includes an automatic in-stall freshening toilet paper dispenser and works together to continuously keep the whole room smelling clean. They mounted the dispensers on top of side-by-side toilet paper dispensers in the public and patient restrooms, as well as placed whole-room passive dispensers in select exam rooms where odor can be a problem. The staff chose one fragrance for all the dispensers to create a consistently pleasant smell throughout the hospital and a few staff members with scent sensitivities were thrilled with the refreshingly subtle fragrance.  


Since using the dispensers, the hospital reported zero patient complaints and is now seeing the results in HCAHPS satisfaction scores – allowing everyone in the hospital to breathe a whole lot easier. This one example goes to show the importance of keeping restrooms and other rooms in a hospital clean and smelling refreshed to increase patient satisfaction.

Since using the dispensers, the hospital reported zero patient complaints and is now seeing the results in HCAHPS satisfaction scores – allowing everyone in the hospital to breathe a whole lot easier. This one example goes to show the importance of keeping restrooms and other rooms in a hospital clean and smelling refreshed to increase patient satisfaction.

  1. Make sure products used are easy to maintain to help both the facility and the patient

It’s true that when it comes to restroom cleanliness and odor control, a healthcare facility should be prepared to maintain and upkeep every room. Using products that have easy access designs make maintenance and refills a breeze, with no messy liquids or sprays so consider using products that have those benefits.

Also, having staff members come in to check on supplies while a patient is in a room can be uncomfortable for patients, so healthcare facilities should consider using an in-stall freshening dispenser, which are easier to change quickly. Healthcare facilities should also consider using solutions that provide continuous freshness for months at a time because it will reduce the number of times custodians must change refills and limit the number of refills that need to be ordered.

By keeping the restroom maintained, your patients and staff will feel comfortable during their recovery process.  

A 2014 GP PRO survey found that two-thirds of healthcare decision makers say keeping restrooms clean, hygienic and clean smelling will increase business performance which is why it’s time to start with neutralizing restroom odor to increase patient satisfaction. If a restroom looks clean, but has a pungent smell it can still change a patient’s perception of cleanliness. If a person spends about 400 days in a restroom over their lifetime, each experience should be a positive one – starting with smell.

Todd Lappi is the director of the air care category at GP PRO. 

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