Hospitals mimic resorts to attract insurance dollars

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: March 17th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

After checking into your room, you immediately go to the balcony to take in the view of your own private terrace. Later you’ll order some room service and maybe schedule an in-room massage.

It may sound like a stay at a five-star resort but you’ll find the same amenities at many new hospitals. According to researchers writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, more hospitals are offering luxury perks to attract patients — and their insurers’ health care dollars.

The trend is worrisome to many experts who believe hospitals should be putting money into improving the quality of care, not the thread count of the bedsheets.

But according to the researchers, the move toward more deluxe accommodations appears to be working. For example, when the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center opened in 2008, promotion of the facility focused on frills such as private rooms, massage therapists, room service and beautiful views. According to the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, the number of patients who said they would recommend UCLA rose from seventy-one percent to eighty-five percent after the new hospital opened.

In their report, researchers also cited a recent survey that found patients believe a hospital’s non-clinical experience is twice as important as its clinical reputation. Why is this? The researchers believe traditional measures of clinical quality may be difficult to understand, so patients are using other criteria to make their choices.

While wide-screen TVs and gourmet food might be tempting, a hospital is really only as good as the quality of care it provides. Take the time to do some research. You’re probably better off saving the resorts for when you’re on vacation.