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41 Splashes of Hospital Dazzle: Amenities Win Well-Insured Patients

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

hospital amenitiesFor nearly 10 years or so, hospitals have been struggling with how to effectively and profitably reinvent themselves. The direction is to become increasingly consumer-direct.

Among the transformational market forces are the informed and empowered public, increasing competitive pressures, and the desire for hospitals to serve women and other demographic groups. Sprinkle into this recipe the overarching goals of delivering first-class health care, top-rated patient service and satisfaction, and broad brand recognition.

Inpatient facilities that aggressively took up the challenge a few years ago are now leading the power curve, often emerging as “patient preferred” amid today’s retail-oriented and consumer-centric medical marketplace.

When the then-new Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center opened in 2008, “Radio, print, and outdoor advertisements touted its ‘Better Way to Get Better,’ with private and family-friendly rooms, magnificent views, hotel-style room service for meals, massage therapy, and ‘a host of other unexpected amenities.’

“Perhaps as a result, the proportion of patients who say they would definitely recommend UCLA to family and friends has increased by 20 percent (from 71 percent to 85 percent), according to the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS).

Patients have a much louder voice in the selection of their hospital. “In crowded hospital markets, especially in areas populated by well-insured patients,” observes The New England Journal of Medicine, “such amenities play an increasing role in the competition for market share.”

In our view, highly qualified and experienced physicians, surgeons, medical staff and state-of-the-art facilities are primary factors in hospital excellence. For a typical consumer, however, quality is often perceived by less-clinical values such as interpersonal communications, a culture of customer service, and hospitality-based amenities. Patients, family and friends easily recognize the “creature comfort” things that patients care about.

Studies support the notion that, “patients themselves said that the nonclinical experience is twice as important as the clinical reputation in making hospital choices.” For cost-aware hospitals, "returns-on-amenities" can include:

  • Improved outcomes, healing environment and speed of recovery
  • Positive patient experience and satisfaction
  • Attracting preferred, well insured or cash patients
  • Strongly differentiating the hospital as brand of choice
  • Enhanced professional reputation
  • Inspiring patient referrals and positive social media exposure

Throughout the nation, marketing, advertising and public relations messages of hospitals and health systems have taken a page from upscale players in the hospitality industry. They show the dazzle factor and emphasize the progressive and healthy-living qualities that appeal to the public/consumer.

Even with more than 40 examples--some familiar, some novel--the following list is incomplete. Tell us what your hospital is doing, and what would you add to this list?

  • 24-hour room service
  • Ambiance and landscape – fish tanks, atriums, tranquil gardens, art collections, fireplaces, gardens, aviaries
  • ATMs and banking facilities
  • Beauty shops and nail salons
  • Boutique or mini-shopping mall
  • Business center
  • Catering services
  • Chaplaincy, chapel and worship services
  • Chef-prepared meals
  • Childcare center; playground areas
  • Complementary robes
  • Concierge services
  • Doc Java coffee ship
  • Family-friendly birthing suites
  • Fitness and Lifestyle Center, health and exercise club
  • Flat-screen TVs; interactive
  • Flower and Gift Shop; gift shop discounts
  • Healthy menu lobby café
  • High-thread-count sheets
  • Larger, single-patient rooms (quieter, greater privacy, infection control)
  • Library and similar “quiet retreat” space
  • Mail delivery
  • Massage therapy
  • Mirth therapy, using humor
  • Mother and Baby Center (neonatal intensive care; gynecological/pediatric surgery)
  • Music, musicians, mini-concerts
  • Patient and Family Resource Center
  • Shuttle services
  • Sleeper-sofas and recliners for family members
  • Solarium suites; rooms with a scenic view
  • Soothing background sounds; waterfall, bird chirps
  • Spa-like womens’ health facility
  • Spacious, welcoming lobby, upscale decor
  • SPOT – Special Pets Offering Therapy, animal-assisted therapy
  • Starbucks or other gourmet brand
  • Subway (or other retail brand) restaurant
  • Translation, interpreting services
  • Valet parking
  • Very Important Patient (VIP) “loyalty-type” perks
  • Wi-Fi, free wireless Internet access
  • Wide selection of food choices

Healthcare reform, societal shifts and increased competition have moved hospitals from a bland and unflattering image of “cold and clinical” to one of distinctive “quality care and comfort.”

For related reading, see our previous post: Why Hospital Marketing Has an Incentive to Compete with Amenities, as well as reference articles including, Health Care Hospitality (Arkansas Business), and Pampering Patients (Seattle Business).

We'd like to hear from you. What amenities have been successful for your hospital or facility? What's working, and what's not? Your comments are welcome.

Author: Lonnie Hirsch

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