Hospitality in Hospitals

Updated: April 07, 2016 7:13 PM

Dr J Sivakumaran, COO, KMCH Coimbatore, speaks about the importance of hospitality within healthcare set-ups and elaborates on the various aspects to be considered

Dr J Sivakumaran, COO, KMCH Coimbatore, speaks about the importance of hospitality within healthcare set-ups and elaborates on the various aspects to be considered

201604ehm35Hospitality  is basically developing a relationship between a guest and a host.  In the relationship process a stranger becomes a guest, a friend and finally a loyal customer. Hospitality and hospitals have similarities in many functions. Like hotels, hospitals also strike a relationship with their patients and the service providers. Patients get admitted, treated, cured and becomes a customer for his future healthcare needs. In both the places the customer spends time and money for the services availed. In both the activities, the basic principle is to create a culture of treating customers respectfully, ethically to ensure customer satisfaction which could be measured and reviewed. The support services like F&B, housekeeping, engineering, laundry, room services, billing, HR, security, sales and marketing are common in both the sectors. In these sectors response time, soft skills, dress code, proper communication with the guests, ambiance, interiors, proper housekeeping and food services are elements of satisfaction index. Satisfaction based on experience of the services is the prime deciding factors for revisit. If service is not up to the mark or the experience is not pleasant, customer will choose an alternate service provider. Unlike product selection, the decision of choosing services is not only done by the customer himself but also influenced by friends, relatives, and peer groups.  One major difference is that the state of mind of customers and relatives are different in healthcare and hospitality industries. The choice of food could be at the guests’ wish in hotels, whereas the choice of food is either limited or chosen by dietician in hospitals. In hotels, people wish to stay leisurely as tourist guests, but in hospitals, no body wish to stay as a patient guest.

Levels of hospital service: We can divide hospital services into three levels. The first level is the core clinical service level in which innovations in service delivery are limited.  The second level is the mixture of clinical and non-clinical services like patient safety, quality service, functional design, protocols etc.  Here the scope of innovation is better than the first level but limited.  The third level is the non-clinical level which really swings patients’ experience from one side to another. Housekeeping, F&B, soft speaking service providers, response time, waiting time etc., come under this level. Unlimited innovations could be done in this level.  Hospitals are borrowing many concepts from hospitality sector to meet the expectations of the patients at this level of services.

Adoption of Hospitality Designs: Hospital experience is not only based on clinical outcomes, but also based on numerous other minute observations and interactions encountered by the patients in the hospital. Apart from the doctor being nice to the patient, the response time, timely supply of food, usage of latest equipment, technical knowledge of the service provider, waiting time, transparency in billing, upkeep of the usage area, cleanliness of the bed and washrooms etc., also play a vital role in  patient experience. Most of these are applicable to the hospitality industry as well.  A scientific evaluation suggests that for a healthcare environment, aesthetically designed natural elements or sceneries is preferred to reduce the stress and generate positive thoughts in the minds of the patients.  The incorporation of hospitality design makes patients and attendants at ease and reduces the anxiety of being in a new place and environment. Feeling at home will increase the comfort level of the patients and help to increase the recovery process. Many of the hospitality elements like spacious reception and tastefully designed furniture, decorative walls, attractive lighting with soothing music etc. are adopted by the modern hospitals.  Some of the corporate hospitals have sophisticated rooms better than star hotels.  Rooms have kitchen, play area for kids, visitor’s lounge etc. To enhance the experience, hospitals have lavish lobbies, common spaces, spas, wellness-therapy centres, entertainment theatres, book shops, bank ATMs, flower shops, gift shops, wi-fi internet services, branded food joints, yoga centres, travelling desks and so on.

Adoption of Hospitality F&B: Food and beverages is an important department within hospitals.  The trend of serving customised food to the patients is practice in hospitals. This is to take care of the patients’ need. Therefore, every time the patient attendant need not shuttle here and there for food.  The food menu is customised depending upon the patient’s ailment and progress.  If the patient needs to be given liquid food for every two hours, arranging liquid food so frequently from outside will be a cumbersome process to attenders. If arranged from outside, the quality and hygienic preparation will be in question.  If the quality is compromised, instead of improving, the patient will start deteriorating.  Here again the hospitality industry has helped the hospitals to adopt the culture of preparing variety of customized menu depending upon the condition of the patients.  Like hotels, the food is served by uniformed waiters, who have been trained in soft skills and manners, presented and served neatly on time so that the patient feels at home. The frequency and timings of serving may vary from hospital to hospital and within a hospital from one patient to another. For medical tourism patients, the menu will be totally different in terms of variety, preparation, taste and presentation. To handle the variety of patients, many of the executives from hospitality industry are being hired in the area of F&B, front office, housekeeping, guest relations etc. The demand for talents from these department is increasing.

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