Hospitals try to offset Medicare cuts with amenities

Hospitals increasingly use high-end amenities to boost patient satisfaction scores amid Medicare cuts, according to the Dallas News.

Often, patients care more about a hospital's amenities than its medical outcomes, John Romley, a research assistant professor at the University of Southern California's Price School of Public Policy, told the publication.

"Patients make their decisions based on the information that's available to them," he told the Dallas News. "It's easier to determine creature comforts than whether the hospital is following the latest evidence-based protocols."

As long as patients respond to these comforts, Romley said, hospital spending will prioritize it, often making a larger financial commitment than it does to improving care quality. For example, in Dallas, $6.5 billion in hospital construction is underway even as Medicare reimbursement cuts cost hospitals $11 billion in revenue. Under a new Medicare payment formula that increases the weight of patient satisfaction, giving patients what they want is more important than ever.

Romley's research has found that patients' decision-making processes for hospital care has changed, he told the Dallas News. Where once the key factor was a doctor's recommendation of a hospital, usually one where that doctor practiced, many primary care doctors no longer even see their patients in the hospital, so other considerations have moved to the forefront. Often it's simply a matter of convenience or proximity, but for those with the time, amenities can be a major draw, with Medical City Dallas Hospital's website openly advertising that it "looks like [and] has services of a Five Star hotel," according to the article.

Many hospitals have taken similar steps to attract international patients, accommodating them with traditional food options and programs tailored to health problems more likely to affect certain demographics, FierceHealthcare previously reported. But others have criticized hotel-like amenities as wasteful, with a New York Times opinion piece arguing these features have more to do with marketing than outcomes.

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