Bridging the gap between hospitality and healthcare to create a patient-first experience

The hospitality business has many insights to offer to the healthcare sector, even though at first glance, these two industries may seem worlds apart.

During a May Becker's Hospital Review podcast, sponsored by NRC Health, Linsey Stitt Germak, patient experience officer for Hershey, Penn.-based Penn State Health, and Ashley Nelson, director for consumer success at NRC Health, discussed how hospitals and health systems can benefit from adopting a hospitality-like mindset.

Three key insights were:

  1. The healthcare sector can 'borrow a page' from the hospitality industry's focus on customer service. A useful way to think about the healthcare and hospitality industries in parallel is to consider that many patients today are well traveled. Having experienced a multitude of service experiences when traveling, they now have higher expectations when receiving care.

    Still, despite this wide range of service experiences, Ms. Stitt Germak said that medical centers can still leave an impression that exceeds patients' expectations. "When patients go to the hospital, they expect quality clinical outcomes, but they may not expect all the other little nuances — from the food we serve, to the way our housekeepers interact to the way our nurses share empathy and compassion."

    The common element that shines through those nuances — just as in the hospitality sector — is the human connection, Ms. Nelson said. She noted that how patients are greeted at the reception desk when they first walk in is another opportunity to leave a lasting impression.

  2. Providers can adopt other successful hospitality strategies to enhance the patient experience. Some of those best practices and strategies include:

    • Escorting patients to their appointment or wherever they need to go within the hospital.

    • Communicating proactively and transparently about delay times, medical procedures or the plan for the day if the patient is admitted for treatment. Communicating at the patients' level is key to effective communication, Ms. Stitt Germak added.

    • When drawing up organizational policies or guidelines, having the decision-maker put themselves in the shoes of their loved one, whom those policies may one day affect as a patient, so as to create them from a place of empathy. A result of this thought process may be having a policy to call a patient's family member and have them on the phone while rounding with that patient, as a way to include them in the care process.

  1. Healthcare leaders must ensure that patient interactions reflect a commitment to making a meaningful difference. The key step for setting a hospitality-like, patient-focused set of service standards in motion is, first and foremost, to decide on it and just start.

    It is also critical to engage frontline clinical teams around aspects of their work that they care deeply about and that connect them back to their purpose, while eliminating things that get in the way of the humaneness of healthcare, Ms. Nelson said. Co-designing procedures and policies with staff members should be another essential part of that path.

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