Hospitality meets healthcare

October 31, 2010
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Redesigning the patient/guest experience

IMAGES PROVIDED BY HKS, INC.

Use of nature is a great way of creating a campus that is more than just healthcare. walking trails can provide a respite for families with children or relatives in the hospital.

Use of nature is a great way of creating a campus that is more than just healthcare. Walking trails can provide a respite for families with children or relatives in the hospital.


Hospitality design intertwined with healthcare architecture is not, in itself, new. For the last 10 years, healthcare architects have been focused on destination healthcare-type settings that connect with their communities while appealing to the patients.

This movement started by adding hospitality-like finishes, such as bedspreads and warm wood flooring. The next movement incorporated front-of-house and back-of-house activities. But, at the end of the day, the facility was still a hospital.

Today, a new wave of facilities is coming online that takes this a step further by thinking about the patient experience beyond just the rooms.

The new method: guest-focused care. This design approach views the patient as a guest first-creating a new, implied personal contract. While patients are something to be processed, guests are to be treated and are with you a short while. As a result, the idea of guest-focused care is about getting to the DNA of design and introducing design attitudes that focus on the guest experience, which affects not just finishes but operations, efficiency, and staff interaction. The result is a renewed approach to the concept of “hospitality meets healthcare design” that goes further than what has been done in the past. It shapes everything from check in to check out and is the basis of experiential design.

Times are changing

When discussing the integration of hospitality and healthcare, it is hard to ignore medical tourism as a key segment of the market. This is a vastly growing business, both online and overseas, as patients seek to lower costs by traveling abroad. From hotel entities to overseas health centers, there is increasing competition for medical tourism. It evolves from lifestyle marketing in the hospitality industry and from elective, private-pay clients-many of whom are uninsured or underinsured and need to reduce costs.

While one would think that a down economy would negatively affect this industry, the reality is that it is as strong as it has ever been. Consumers on tight budgets use the Internet to shop for bargains, at times yielding as much as a 66% savings on some procedures.

The irony

The irony is that this idea isn't new. Hospitals and hotels have the same etymology. The word “hospital” comes from the Latin word “hospes” (host), which also is the root for the English words “hospice,” “hotel,” “hostel”, and “hospitality.”

The healthcare and hospitality mix is happening through initiatives such as creating healing environments and patient-focused care. However, these trends and methods stop short of reaching their full potential, as they are almost always about dressing up the facility to be more hospitable instead of focusing on the cultural change required to truly reach this goal.

One of the first lessons of hospitality design is that 90% of what establishes the difference between a two-star hotel and a five-star hotel is service. This is the reason that we must move beyond finishes and toward operations, service, and process. A deeper shift is required to truly integrate hospitality and healthcare.

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