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Heart hospitals are foregoing the traditional systems with a model known as patient-focused care. In this model patients stay in one room throughout the entire procedure, rather than the traditional method of waiting for beds to open as they transfer from one unit to another. This one-room approach also works to reduce the time spent in the hospital. The Heart Hospital, which has 12 beds, usually sends patients home in three days, in comparison to five to seven days in a conventional hospital.
In addition, medical staff is generally paid higher salaries at specialty hospitals. Nurses can earn between $5 and $7 more per hour than their counterparts in traditional hospitals (Stringer, 2001).
A study by health care research firm HCIA.com in Maryland demonstrates that the amenities of specialty hospitals are winning over more and more patients (Stringer, 2001). The study revealed that two public hospitals performed between 25% and 35% fewer heart procedures on Medicare patients in 1997 than in 1996, the same year a heart hospital opened in the area. Specialty hospitals are also attracting the most experienced caregivers, often taking them from traditional hospitals.
The trend is driven by expected demand from aging baby-boomer patients who are accustomed to luxurious touches -- such as herb gardens and stress-reducing aquariums - that do not exist in traditional hospitals (Japenga, 2005).
People often assume that luxury hospital accommodations are only for the rich, according to Jack Sternlieb, M.D., the boyish founder and director of The Heart Hospital. However, the majority of his patients are on Medicare (Japenga, 2005). "Full service hospitals are big white elephants," he says, "bogged down in administrative costs."
On the other hand, luxury hospitals specialize in high-volume, big-ticket, in-patient procedures such as heart and orthopedic surgery (Japenga, 2005). These are the same profitable procedures that traditional hospitals depend on to cover the cost of less lucrative -- but important - services.
This trend can really hurt the full-service hospitals," says Tom Scully, president of the Federation of American Health Systems, a group representing 1,700 privately owned and managed hospitals (Japenga, 2005). "It's a very dangerous trend." niche hospital can come in and siphon off the procedures that pay well, chipping away at the financial stability of the full-service community hospital," adds Rick Wade, senior vice president for the American Hospital Association (Japenga, 2005).
As a result of design features that promote tranquility (for example, the wires and bleeping monitors are hidden behind custom cabinets), patients are less likely to suffer the common anxiety and fear that patients face in traditional hospitals (Japenga, 2005).
Many large university hospitals, as well as famous facilities such as the Mayo and Cleveland clinics, now include suites for high-profile patients who want luxury accommodations to match their state-of-the-art medical care (MacDonald, 2002). For an additional daily fee of $400 to $1,500 above what insurance pays for, customers can wine and dine by candlelight on gourmet food made by a private chef, have the daily newspaper delivered directly to their rooms, and have the family visit anytime or even stay with you. Access to a concierge, hair stylist and other services are also part of the deal in many hospitals.
Suites became popular in upscale U.S. hospitals during the 1970s and 1980s, partly to meet the needs of foreign royalty such as the Shah of Iran, as well as other wealthy and famous patients (MacDonald, 2002). Their popularity expanded in the 1990s as more and more upscale private clinics and specialty spas were created.
Dennis Brimhall, president and CEO of the new University of Colorado Hospital in Denver, says that the hospital offers many luxury suites at a cost of $700 extra per day (MacDonald, 2002). This cost is not covered by insurance. When architects were designing locations for monitors and medical gadgets, Brimhall asked them to include luxurious amenities. "I hauled up the Four Seasons Hotel Web site and said, 'That's what I want,'" he says (MacDonald, 2002). "You don't have any sense whatsoever that you're in a hospital."
Kaveh Safari, chief medical officer of Solucient, a health care database and information company, says hospital luxury suites are similar to the Las Vegas high-roller suite (MacDonald, 2002)."What they are often trying to do is attract a high-profile client. They might actually take a loss on it on the theory that if they can say that a high-profile clientele came there, it must be a good hospital. In their strategic planning, they don't do this at all as a revenue thing. They might do it as a marketing thing, as an expense instead of a source of income."
In conclusion, as the healthcare business becomes increasingly competitive, many hospitals and healthcare facilities are making an effort to make accommodations more comfortable (Santelmann, 2002). Many birthing centers feature cheery wallpaper and upscale furniture. For many years, people who have had the opportunity to be treated in some of Europe's leading private hospitals come back to the U.S. with stories of wine lists and personal chefs.
Nowadays, many hospitals are making an effort to earn reputations for not only curing their patients but also for pampering them (Santelmann, 2002). Patients now have the option to recuperate in upscale units with suite-sized rooms, gourmet meals, luxurious sheets, security, and customer service representatives. For many, this is a welcome change from the cold and impersonal hospital environments of the past. (August 26, 2005). Hospital Trends. Environmental Assessment Journal (EAJ): 14, 206.
Carpenter D. (March, 2004). A good, old-fashioned building boom. Hospitals & Health Networks: 34-42.
Consumer Affairs. (October 7, 2004). Hospital Patients Mostly Satisfied, J.D. Power Finds. www.Consumeraffairs.com
Japenga, Ann. (May 11, 2005) Is a luxury hospital in your future? USA Weekend.
MacDonald, Jay. (2002). The Hospital Suite Life.
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