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Why Hospital Marketing Has an Incentive to Compete with Amenities

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer
hospital amenities

Hospitals as Hotels?

Patients have more say in their choice of hospital. Through the eyes of the general public—patients and prospective patients—hospitals tend to look alike. A doctor is a doctor, and a hospital is a hospital.

And when the typical “consumer,” is pressed to make a choice between “Hospital A” and “Hospital B,” they relate to what they know best. And by their value system, “comfort” is easier to recognize than “clinical.” The marketing message for winning admissions, according to studies, will consider that:

  • Hospitals may have an incentive to compete in amenities.
  • From the patient perspective, experience matters more than data.
  • Good food, attentive staff, and pleasant surroundings may play an important role in hospital demand.
  • All things being equal, patients still choose a hospital with amenities over one without.

Hospitals are recognizing that, for the general public, judging a facility is “up-close and personal;” they're competing on the basis of the amenities they provide as well as quality.

A recent study, Hospitals As Hotels: The Role of Patient Amenities in Hospital Demand (available online from the National Bureau of Economic Research) concludes, “From the patient perspective, hospital quality embodies amenities as well as clinical quality.” What’s more, “These findings imply that hospitals may have an incentive to compete in amenities…”

The American Hospital Association provides an excellent in-depth look at The Rise of Amenities that you’ll want to read, observing that “Amenities such as private and family-friendly rooms, views, hotel-style room service meals and massage therapy…play an increasingly important role—so important that patients may choose a clinically inferior hospital because of them.”

At least two earlier surveys offer similar findings. “A 2007 McKinsey and Company survey showed that only 20 percent of patients' choice was based on clinical quality, while a remarkable 41 percent was based on the nonclinical experience.

“The McKinsey study showed that physicians, too, placed considerable weight on the patient experience. While physicians say they consider technology, clinical facilities and staff when deciding where to admit their patients, nearly one-third said they would honor patient requests by referring them to a clinically inferior hospital that provided a superior nonclinical patient experience."

And in a 2005 Gallup Poll Panel health care survey, respondents “had only a vague idea of where to locate reliable measures or how to use them. Thirty percent of respondents still relied on recommendations of family and friends, 39 percent said the courtesy of staff was important, and 31 percent chose a facility based on hospital appearance.”

Hospitals as Hotels researchers Goldman and Romley “postulate that patients simply don't understand clinical quality and may be making choices on the basis of amenities because they are easier to understand. Amenities always have been relevant in hospital competition, but they seem to have grown in importance, perhaps because patients now have more say in selecting hospitals.”

For hospital marketing, amenities matter more than ever. Experience-based differentiation is an effective means to achieve a competitive advantage in hospital marketing and advertising. You can read more about successful branding strategies in healthcare, medical and hospital marketing on our website.

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