Patients are increasingly critical consumers. They are “buyers” with access to data and ratings, making deliberate and informed decisions about their healthcare.
Where quality was once evaluated solely on clinical care, patients, prospective patients and their family members are shopping for value and satisfaction. Decision makers have a greater concern for the overall patient experience.
The environment and amenities of the facility are experiential but meaningful to the selection decision. (Most patients are far better equipped to judge what they like than to evaluate medical credentials, training and experience.)
Can a hospital that focuses on advanced technology and expertise survive in what is quickly becoming a marketplace of demanding consumers? Many hospitals have closed, others are struggling, and still others are reinventing themselves as another kind of facility. To survive, facilities will react to the changing demands of the marketplace and provide the most positive patient experience for their targeted audiences.
But which amenities are most important to selection and satisfaction? For some individuals, the appeal may be via upscale cafes, Internet plug-in kiosks, fireplaces and plush seating areas. The primary question is not whether they should invest in amenities, but which amenities are most essential to the overall patient experience, including—perhaps especially—those things that help improve patient care and outcomes.
Which amenities link to improved care?
Those amenities that contribute to the work environment and staff productivity should be among the first to be considered. When nurses, doctors and staff enjoy where they work—and feel their own needs are being respected and met—they are better equipped to provide responsive and compassionate care.
Amenities should effectively improve communication between doctor, nurse, staff and patient. They should facilitate workflow, provide patient education for improved health directive compliance, and help reduce patient anxiety and stress. And they should be appropriate to the patient population being served.
Amenities will change as innovations provide new options. Here are a few examples of amenities that contribute to the overall patient experience.
Single-bed rooms: Single-bed rooms offer a calmer and more restful environment with a greater sense of respect for patient and privacy. While high thread count sheets may not be essential, aesthetic details like traditional headboards that hide medical paraphernalia go a long way toward calming an anxious patient (especially a child). Comfortable seating can encourage more visits from the family members and friends who help aid in a patient’s recovery.
The video monitor: Having a video monitor in every room for staff to view a patient’s EMR and directives contributes to consistent delivery of care and a productive workflow.
Interactive Television: In addition to patient education, an internal TV system can deliver welcome messages and daily info updates; provide appropriate videos that relax or distract; provide challenging games, and instruct about after-discharge care.
Wireless access: While a facility may provide its own video content, allowing patients to access the Internet on their own laptops or tablets enables them to maintain communication with the outside world. (Online video calling also enables “distance visiting.”)
Don’t ignore amenities that provide more human-centered care
While many luxuries can seem frivolous or serve primarily to make a facility more attractive to prospective patients, they can also play a part in positive patient experience. Consider the following:
- The entry waterfall: It may seem like a gross extravagance, but it may be the thing that starts the staff’s day off on the right foot—the place they come to relax when stress builds. It can be the place where a child comes to throw in a penny and wish for a loved one’s recovery.
- The rooftop healing garden: While a chapel once served anyone who wanted to take the time to pray, many people today won’t enter a chapel. Some kind of healing garden or meditation space can give mobile patients and their loved ones a spiritual setting where they can get away from the reminder of their illness or injury.
- Gourmet and multi-cultural menus: Offering patients nutritious options that suit their personal tastes can stimulate appetite and potentially improve recoveries.
- Playgrounds: Sick children (and their siblings) need places where they can get away from the hospital environment and simply be kids, giving them hope for a normal life.
There’s no limit to the number and kind of amenities a hospital can offer to make it appear more attractive to the consumers it wants to attract. We have only mentioned a few. The most important take-away is that, when considering which amenities to invest in, they relate in some way to a more positive patient experience and outcome. Patients will be looking for the best possible environment for their convalescence, but they will not overlook quality care to get it.