Hospital Parking Lot: Litmus Test for Family-Centered Care

patient experience doctor parking[Guest Post by Dr. Paul Rosen]

When I visit hospitals across the country, the first thing I like to check out is the parking lot. An informal assessment of the hospital parking lot is revealing. I like to see who has access to the premium parking spaces–those closest to the hospital. Is it the doctors or the patients?

While, I have not studied this formally, my sense is this clue outside the hospital is a good proxy for the commitment to patient-centered care that’s going on inside the hospital. It’s not scientific, but it’s a revealing litmus test.

I am still amazed when I see the signs that read: DOCTOR PARKING ONLY posted for parking spaces on the first floor, convenient to the front door. Yet the next sign reads: PATIENT PARKING NEXT LEVEL UP.

Patients, friends and family members are important considerations. I wonder how people feel when they bring their sick loved one to the hospital, and they are directed (to drive past the doctor parking) to the upper levels of the parking garage.

The last time I observed this scene, I started thinking how I would feel if I visited Whole Foods, Best Buy, Target or Macy’s and saw signs near the front entrance: RESERVED EMPLOYEE PARKING.

But there’s more to consider…

Doctor parking is not a trivial issue. These days, it represents a symbolic throwback to days when care delivery was less patient-centered. Doctors are currently feeling the pain of dramatic change in healthcare during this period of hospital and health system consolidation. Over half of physicians nationwide report burnout and many feel a lack of alignment with their leadership and loss of autonomy.

Choice doctor parking seems to make sense for the surgeon racing in to the hospital at midnight to take care of a trauma patient, or to perform an appendectomy. If that is the purpose of premium doctor parking, then it raises the question: How many spaces, and during what hours, should the premium spaces be reserved for doctors? Those of us who work at hospitals know that there is typically plenty of convenient parking at midnight.

The parking issue raises a broader question: How do we put patients at the center of everything we do, tackle physician burnout, and restore the joy of medicine for all healthcare professionals?

Doctors deserve respect, and hospital design should reduce caregiver stress with every opportunity. But in 2016, patients should park on the first floor.

For related reading, see: Hospital Marketing Has an Incentive to Compete with Amenities, and Thinking Forward: Taking Your Hospital Brand to the Next Level.

Paul Rosen, MD

Dr Paul RosenPediatric Rheumatologist Paul Rosen, MD, is Clinical Director of Service and Operational Excellence at Nemours. He received a Masters of Public Health degree from Harvard University and a Masters of Medical Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Rosen’s interests include patient-physician communication, family-centered care, and the patient experience. He teaches medical students about improving the patient experience, and he serves as the faculty mentor for the physician executive leadership program for medical students at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.


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