Competition, consumer demand trends and new thinking have converged to create a paradigm shift in the look and feel of new and renovated hospitals. Stark white walls, clinical furnishings and noisy corridors have given way to soothing color tones, plush case goods and sound-absorbing acoustics. Services and amenities including concierges, spa treatments and free WiFi are becoming more commonplace, along with meals that look and taste good. Many hospitals seem more like hotels today. And that’s no accident.
Private insurance plans afford people a choice of where they receive care. Hospitals find themselves competing for patients who, after a stay, relay their experiences to family and friends. Positive word of mouth influences others to choose or recommend the hospital. The conversation encompasses much more than the purpose of the stay, especially when the patient feels well taken care of.
On the far end of the spectrum are hospitals that, like some luxury hotels, offer executive floors with premium amenities such as high-thread-count sheets, 24-hour room service and meals prepared by celebrity chefs. Across many more new facilities and renovated ones, patients arrive to inviting interiors, hospitality-trained staff and up-to-date technology, including flat-screen televisions, akin to what is now standard in hotel rooms.
Yes, patients “consume” hospital care, and they are ever more demanding. Respondents in a 2016 study by Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration indicated that they would be willing to pay 38 percent more for a hospital room outfitted with desired hotel-style upgrades.
More recently, EMA’s Healthcare Specialty Group surveyed women of child-bearing age to gain insight on their expectations from a delivery hospital. The results show the new moms are discerning and have specific wants, with 45 percent expecting a private room, 43 percent insisting upon comfortable accommodations for their partner, and, among Gen Z moms, even more. Of that up-and-coming generation, 50 percent expect wireless internet, snacks for support people and guests, and a nutritionist on hand, among other “must haves.” One in three Gen Z moms wants baby gifts from the hospital, window views and a newborn photographer, while one in five expects gourmet food and massage or spa services. Born in the digital era, these new moms have grown up with personalized, customized experiences. Hotel-style hospitals make the grade.
As the medical community shifts focus from an illness model to one of wellness — or at least a blending of the two — the subject of patient experience broadens beyond the clinical to the holistic. Mind-body medicine has expanded to encompass spirit as well. Putting the patient in an environment that is comfortable, soothing, supportive, and uplifting may reduce stress and support immune function. In addition to physical enhancements, hotel-style services and amenities, many hospitals now offer complementary medical practices. These include acupuncture, tai chi, yoga, meditation and other integrative techniques, many of which can be found in destination and resort spas today.
Making a hospital more hotel-like may not turn a patient’s stay into a vacation. But it creates an environment that promotes the patient’s return to health and well-being.