Hospitals Roll Out the Red Carpet

But does the white-glove treatment mean better care?

by Jewels Doskicz | Updated 30 Dec 2015 at 1:22 PM

If you’re looking for a hospital room to rival a Trump Tower suite in 2016, it appears you will have an increasing number of options from which to choose.

For years, hospitals have had their finger on the pulse of “patient satisfaction,” with some even building luxury rooms for guests with flat-screen televisions, stereo systems and accommodations for visitors.

But as competition rises for your health care dollar, and with consumers doing more hospital shopping, five-star accommodations with full amenities look to increasingly become an option.

An important question to ask yourself, however, is will any of the white-glove treatments, relaxation music and waterfalls greeting you lead to better care?

Earlier this year, Alexandra Robbins, an author of a recent book on nurses, wrote a piece for The Atlantic arguing that focusing on the patient experience can ultimately do more harm than good. It might put undue pressure on staff and trick patients into believing they’re getting better care.

The above is important to note. The Affordable Care Act’s Value-Based Purchasing program now has some Medicare payments to hospitals tied to patient satisfaction scores from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey.

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Robbins and a growing chorus of health care providers want patients to know that improvements in satisfaction are not always tied to better health care outcomes. So we might all need to step back, do a little more homework before signing in, and look at the quality of care any facility might provide versus checking the thread count of the bed sheets.

Having said that, who in their right mind wouldn’t welcome some changes when it comes to accommodations? Spend 24 hours in a hospital and your suggestions will likely begin to spill off a page.

Better rest could be achieved through a quiet, more comfortable and temperate room with fewer interruptions. Healthier menus from the kitchen and attentive staff, along with a balcony for fresh air might all help in the recovery process as well. Why should we expect any less when we’re at our most vulnerable?

Related: Doctors and Dollars

As a health care provider myself, my colleagues and I would love some of the simple amenities afforded other occupations — like windows. Blind to the views, we lose track of day and night. Gone are the days of Florence Nightingale where high ceilings, natural light and fresh air were the norm. Now there’s MRSA, VRE and other highly contagious diseases that have us cleaning with bleach in rooms where windows are sealed shut — if there are any to begin with. God forbid we let the outside in.

But my colleagues and I will also tell you that while we appreciate nice accommodations, we prefer amazing health care and attentive nurses — and to get the heck out of the hospital the second our health permits.

“The trend is more about marketing than medical benefits,” said New York-based patient advocate Beverly Adler.

Her main concern is “the competence of medical staff to properly manage care. Whether there’s a flat-screen TV in the room or other luxury accommodations is irrelevant to me.”

As hospitals are in the business to not only care for the sick, but also to make a profit, perhaps there’s a sweet spot somewhere in between.

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