Improving the Patient Experience with Hospitality and Technology

This blog discusses how technology and hospitality best practices can improve the patient experience.

Spending time in a hospital is an unavoidable part of life.  Whether it’s been for my own health or that of a friend’s or family member’s I inevitably find myself reading four year old magazines, eating out of vending machines, and anxiously awaiting updates from hurried and seldom available medical staff.  After each of these experiences I invariably find myself wishing that hospitals functioned more like the hospitality sector.  At first glance the hospitality industry and hospitals seem to have little in common, but I beg to differ.  They both provide rooms with beds, short and long term stays, food service, room service, and varying levels of customer care.  

If hospitals would incorporate the practices of the hospitality sector along with the right technologies they could substantially improve patient care and comfort while lessening stress for patients, families, and medical staff. 

My experience with hospitals has run the gamut from excellent to mediocre to poor.  Years ago when my brother-in-law had a car accident and was life-flighted to the nearest trauma center, I learned first-hand what happens when a hospital doesn’t incorporate appropriate technologies or take a hospitality centered approach.  Although the airbags saved his life, he ended up with a punctured and collapsed lung, broken ribs, and a severe concussion.  Once he was stabilized he was given painkillers and placed in a standard hospital room.  After more than 24 hours at their son’s side, my in-laws went to their hotel to shower and get a few hours of sleep.  During this time, my brother in-law, who was still taking heavy sedatives for pain, got up to use the bathroom not coherent enough to realize he had a chest tube inserted into his lung.  My in-laws returned to find the chest tube pulled out of his lung.  For the next five days he was hospitalized, my mother-in-law never again left his side.  

Although this hospital had some of the best medical staff in the country, the hospital didn’t take a person centered approach to my brother-in-law’s care.  It shouldn’t be the responsibility of a patient’s family to spend five sleepless nights insuring their loved one receives the appropriate observation and medical care.  Even though it’s often impossible for nursing staff to provide around the clock observation they could have incorporated bed sensors that would have alerted them that my brother-in-law was attempting to leave his bed.  This simple device along with the hospital staff exhibiting a more courteous demeanor could have provided the appropriate level of care, allowed my in-laws to sleep at night, and drastically reduced their stress and anxiety.  

In contrast to the experience of my brother-in-law, my own experience with my son’s surgery could not have been more different.  The hospital staff was extremely polite and courteous.  Before the procedure my husband and I met with each member of the surgical team who took considerable time answering each and every one of our questions.  During the surgery we waited in a lobby that was equipped with an electronic update board.  This board listed our son’s patient number with up to minute updates on his status.  We knew when he was in pre-op, when he was in surgery, when he was post-op, and the exact moment when we could see him again.  By taking the time and initiative to treat us like guests in their hospital and by incorporating the right technologies, this hospital did everything possible to ease two stressed and anxious parents.  We were and still are grateful.When hospitals incorporate a hospitality centered approach and make use of appropriate technologies they significantly improve care while lessening the stress and worry of family members and friends. 

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