Health Care Hospitality: Hospitals Use Amenities To Dazzle Patients

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

Dr. Roxane Townsend, who heads the UAMS Medical Center, holds that the hospital hasn’t invested in services like improved food choices just to compete with other hospitals. Instead, she said, “We are really focused on our patients’ experience, and we recognize how important well-being is to maintaining or achieving health.”

In opening that new patient tower, “we used architects who understand not just how to build a hospital, but how to build a hospital that helps people heal. They really talk about the healing environment.

“We’re trying to deal with people at all levels so, yeah, we have great technology, we have wonderful staff, we have very talented physicians, but we also understand how important it is for patients to have a good experience, to feel good — as good as they can — about being in a hospital.”

“When we look at the patient experience, we’re not just talking about customer service and the Disney experience,” she added. A satisfying, effective patient experience includes hands-on service along with larger private rooms and ensuring that meals are served hot.

“When we involve patients in their care and they feel like they have more control and ownership in the care plan, they are much more likely to follow recommendations that are made post discharge,” she said.

Said Bo Ryall, executive director of the Arkansas Hospital Association: “Hospitals have recognized that hospitalization can be a very stressful experience, and hospitals have recognized that customer service and hospitality can alleviate the stress for the patient and the family and reduces the stress on hospital staff. It helps to have overall a better patient experience and patient outcome.”

Nancy Foster, vice president for quality and patient safety policy at the American Hospital Association, pointed to research indicating that patients who are comfortable and feel cared for will recover faster, “which, of course, is what we all want.”

The move by hospitals to private rooms, for example, is not just a function of patient comfort. In 2006, the Facilities Guidelines Institute, a nonprofit, and the American Institute of Architects’ Academy of Architecture for Health, published new guidelines calling for single-patient rooms as a standard in any new hospital. Among the reasons was an effort to prevent spread of infections.

In addition, HIPAA guidelines, which include strict privacy rules, were an argument for hospitals to move to single-patient rooms. As Townsend said, it’s impossible chat privately “in a room where patients are separated by a curtain.”

Customer Satisfaction

The adoption by hospitals of the HCAHPS Survey has been the third catalyst leading to greater emphasis on amenities for patients and families. Among the criteria the survey lists are perceptions about communication with doctors and nurses, the responsiveness of the hospital staff, the cleanliness of the hospital, an overall rating and whether the patient would recommend the hospital.

The survey has led to attention being paid “to some of the critical aspects of care in ways that we weren’t able to [measure] before,” said Foster, of the American Hospital Association. “Now, we have not only a sense of how well we are doing in each one of our hospitals but also who’s doing it better.”



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