Hospital amenities gain value over clinical care

Hospitals are using luxury services--like upscale meals, private rooms, magnificent views and valet parking--to attract patients and gain market share, according to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. The Baltimore area is full of top-rated hospitals, and such perks can give hospitals an edge on the competition, notes the Baltimore Sun.

Although amenities have always been linked to hospital competition, they are growing in importance as patients have more say in choosing a hospital, notes NEJM article co-author John Romley, an economist with the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at USC.

What's more, Romely's research shows that patients are putting more value on the quality of amenities--the nonclinical experience--than on the quality of clinical care. According to patients surveyed, the nonclinical experience is twice as important as the clinical reputation in making hospital choices.

"Patients expect a hospital environment that is modern, comfortable and pleasing," Hopkins Hospital Executive VP and COO Judy Reitz told the Sun. "Patients assume they will receive good care at Maryland hospitals, but they increasingly want that good care delivered in a comfortable, patient-friendly environment," she said.

And if hospital perks create environments that patients, providers and staff members prefer, then the latter may give better treatment and the former may see improved health outcomes, according the authors.

Still, the authors point out, hospitals must keep in mind that even though improved perks significantly affect volume, they cost more than quality of care improvements. As such, the hospitals must determine the value of amenities, and decide how to include them in the measures for quality, prices and productivity.

For more:
- read the press release
- here's the study in the NEJM
- read the Baltimore Sun article