The latest trend in hospital design, according to The New York Times, is luxury suites intended to lure wealthy patients. Hospitals such as Mount Sinai Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell have added hotel-like rooms to ensure a comfortable hospital visit. Features such as sheets with a high thread count and made-to-order meals add a bit of sheen to an ordinarily unpleasant experience. Hospitals, recognizing down-market trends in government healthcare payments, are marketing to patients who have personal funds to use at their discretion.
Glamorous hotel chambers are in line with another trend that has been quietly percolating for the past 15 years or so: doctors in the U.S. who refuse to participate in health insurance provider panels. These doctors have decided that rather than accept measly payments and kowtow to the demands of insurance companies to treat hordes of patients, they will cater to patients who can pay for medical services out of their own pockets. They seek a more elite and affluent patient base, hoping for a better pay-off than a see-all-comers approach can yield.
These luxury services need not be limited to VIP’s. Hospitals such as Hackensack University Medical Center, a premier teaching hospital in northern New Jersey, has introduced concierge food service to all patients. A menu, prepared by the medical and nutrition staff, is personalized to fit each patients health restrictions. Patients dial a concierge desk when they are ready for their food and a porter in bow-tie and black vest delivers their order to their room within 15 minutes.
Early reports indicate an increase in patient satisfaction and a reduction in overhead costs to the hospital. Patients are empowered to choose what they want to eat whenever they are hungry, and their food is always fresh. This removes the stigma of cold “hospital food” in a plastic tray. For the hospital’s bottom line, food waste is reduced because patients do not order what they won’t eat. Additionally, staffing this delivery system is less intense than standard distribution. Not every patient needs to receive their food within the same 30 minutes. delivery is more evenly disseminated throughout the day to fit patients’ personal rhythms, and thus requires fewer FTE’s.
On one of my current global projects, I’ve added a luxury wing to a hospital that I’m building in the Middle East. The extra costs of building the luxurious floor are worthwhile to the hospital’s owners, who recognize the value of catering to patients’ wishes. Discriminating consumers appreciate excellent medical care delivered in deluxe accommodations, and they are willing to pay the price it demands.
As I’ve said before, hospitals are businesses that need to turn a profit. Adding services to enhance customer satisfaction is a smart move, because satisfied customers become repeat customers and sources of new referrals. There will always be people who can afford to pay more for better service; a hospital that can attract those people will only benefit.