Health Care Hospitality: Hospitals Use Amenities To Dazzle Patients

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 12:00 am  

“Designed by award-winning architects, your accommodations include free wireless, flat-screen TVs, concierge services, a business center, complementary robes, high-thread-count sheets, chef-prepared meals, banking services and an on-site boutique. Emphasis on customer service.”

Sounds like a nice place to stay, right? Someplace that rates maybe five of those little circles on TripAdvisor.

Yes, except it just as easily could be your local hospital. Hospitals around the country are competing with each other based on such amenities — those in Arkansas are no exception — and some are taking cues from the hospitality industry.

“There is an increasing pressure from a business perspective on health care systems and hospitals to be competitive,” said Chad Aduddell, president of St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center in Little Rock. “And so more and more … hospitals are looking at other industries, other service industries, and trying to replicate some of the things that those hospitality industries have done.”

“Hospitals are not rich. It’s not a particularly well-paying business in general,” said John Romley, an economist and research assistant professor at the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Police & Economics of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “But there are certain patients who are lucrative and attractive to hospitals.”

Chief among these are patients under 65 with good health insurance. “Hospitals are competing for those patients in the ways that they know how,” he said last week. “And it seems that amenities are a way of attracting patients to come to a particular hospital when there’s a need.”

Romley and two fellow researchers, Dana Goldman and Mary Vaiana, wrote about this phenomenon in a 2010 article in the New England Journal of Medicine. “Though amenities have long been relevant to hospitals’ competition, they seem to have increased in importance — perhaps because patients now have more say in selecting hospitals,” the three wrote.

The researchers pointed to patient and physician surveys. Almost a third of general practitioners “said they would honor a patient’s request to be treated at a hospital that provided a superior nonclinical experience but care that was clinically inferior to that of other nearby hospitals. Patients themselves said that the nonclinical experience is twice as important as the clinical reputation in making hospital choices.”

Three Factors

Three factors are driving this emphasis on customer/patient service:

  1. The above-noted competition for patients
  2. The continuing effort by health care providers to improve patient outcomes and speed recovery and 
  3. A consumer survey known in the trade as HCAHPS (pronounced “H-caps”), the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers & Systems Survey.

It is the first standardized, publicly reported survey on patients’ hospital experiences. The survey allows patients’ rating of their care to be compared to other hospitals throughout the United States. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will take survey results into account when calculating Medicare reimbursements.




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