Hospitals reduce parking fees to improve patient experience

Joanne Finnegan

A poor parking set-up is one of the top consumer complaints about hospitals--and has a negative impact on patient experience before the patient even enters the front door.

To increase patient satisfaction, this month the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) in Iowa City reduced its rates for patients and visitors to park at its facility after coming under public scrutiny. Among the changes, the first 30 minutes of parking will now be free, an increase from 15 minutes, according to a report from KWWL.

The hospital made the changes in the wake of the television station's December report, which featured complaints from a family with a sick child about steep parking fees at the hospital, which serves thousands of  low-income families. The Des Moines Register also reported it received complaints of excessive charges.

UIHC dropped the maximum daily rate for those with a validated parking stub from $18 to $10 and now offers a new, three-day discounted ramp pass for $27.

It's not just patients in Iowa raising complaints. North Carolina hospitals have also come under fire. A 70-year-old woman, whose husband will be an inpatient at UNC Hospitals for up to two months while he undergoes chemotherapy to treat his cancer, told the Chapel Hill News she can't afford the $500 it will cost her to park in one of the hospital's visitor decks at $8 per day.

Hospital parking fees vary across the state, the newspaper reported, but some major hospitals charge far less than UNC for long-term visitors, with a few offering free parking and others giving discounts for multi-day parking.

Social workers routinely assist patients and families who need help with costs, including transportation, according to Karen McCall, spokeswoman for UNC Health Care. "It (parking) gets discussed all the time," she told Chapel Hill News. "We do help pay for parking for some families in need...Rather than giving across-the-board discounts, we target those families and patients who are most in need."

Parking fees may be among the hidden costs that prevent some patients from seeking medical care, FierceHealthcare previously reported. One way healthcare providers can reduce barriers to care is to provide patients with parking vouchers. The move might also help win over patients. Some hospitals, looking for creative ways to make patients loyal customers and stay competitive, are offering VIP (very important person) memberships that include free parking and wellness services, FierceHealthcare previously reported. 

To learn more:
- check out the KWWL article
- read the Des Moines Register article

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