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Create Door-to-Door Care Through Healthcare Parking and Transportation

December 6, 2017

Hospitality-Inspired Services Go Extra Mile to Create Lasting Impression

Kevin Dearth

Challenging market dynamics such as shrinking budgets and new legislation have changed the healthcare landscape dramatically. Hospitals are consolidating to create larger, but fewer, healthcare systems. Meanwhile, greater competition from alternative health-related options and rising customer experience expectations are forcing a cultural transformation around patient satisfaction.


In the past, patient satisfaction was outcome driven. Patients went to the hospital to receive quality care and positive outcomes. But today’s patients are consumer-oriented. They are more informed and involved in their own medical care, and have more options to choose from when it comes to healthcare delivery.


Now, in exchange for their patronage and loyalty, patients demand more from their healthcare experience. They still expect high-quality, patient-centered care, but they are also looking for an end-to-end experience focused on their convenience and comfort.


Value-added amenities and hospitality have become new competitive differentiators for healthcare organizations, and have helped them elevate their brands. When patients feel they are treated exceptionally well and are getting good value for their money, they are more likely to:


• Experience faster healing and a shortened hospital stay.


• Become a loyal patient for life.


• Refer other potential customers.


• Rate the healthcare system higher in satisfaction surveys.


Defining Today’s New Patient Experience: ‘A Circle of Care’


The Beryl Institute describes the patient experience as “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”


More simply put, it’s not just about the medical treatment a patient receives, but rather the feelings and perceptions formed over the course of their entire visit. All actions and encounters — from the time they first enter the parking lot to the time they leave — create a “circle of care” that defines the experience holistically.


Hospitality-Inspired Trends Elevate the Patient Experience


With significant revenue at stake, hospitals and healthcare organizations are looking for creative ways to improve the total patient experience. For most patients, the parking lot is where their healthcare journey starts — and ends. So what better place to provide exceptional hospitality-inspired patient services?


Valet Services


Each healthcare patient and visitor is unique. They tend to be emotional — whether they are experiencing pain, grief or worry upon arrival, or the joy of a new baby as they leave. They need a convenient parking experience with minimal stress and wait time, as well as caring, compassion and patience.


Was it easy to park? Was the valet friendly, helpful and expedient? Did he or she assist with a wheelchair or car seat? These needs, addressed effectively, have the power to calm potentially nervous or distressed patients and set the tone for a memorable first — and last — impression of the healthcare system.


Beyond standard valet parking services, innovative healthcare facilities are enhancing their parking
offerings further.


Now, in exchange for their patronage and loyalty, 


patients demand more from their healthcare experience.


Free and Tip-less Valet


A great example of a system going the extra mile can be seen at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO. To provide convenience and hospitality beyond the industry standard, it has expanded its existing valet service to include free and tip-less valets right at the front entrance.


The main entrance valets now park about 1,000 vehicles and assist with unloading an additional 650 cars and trucks per month. Just as important, valets are friendly; get to know patients and families; and offer compassion and empathy — all of which are key to creating a lasting first impression.


Maternity Discharge Valet


Another example of how the circle of care can improve the patient experience can be seen at a large maternity hospital on Long Island, NY. Its regular discharge area, equipped with only one main entrance loop, was inefficient, rushed and stressful for new families. To reduce this chaos, the hospital implemented a special discharge program.


Now, valets are instantly informed of a maternity discharge through an automated “call down” system. They park the cars of the patients being discharged in a new area specifically designated for maternity patients. Away from the main entrance loop, new families can take as much time as they need – without stress, honking and traffic.


Safe and Convenient Shuttle Services


Shuttle services are an important component of the circle of care, extending hospitality from the most remote parking areas right to the front door. On-time shuttles with friendly and helpful drivers are convenient; offer improved safety; and help convey the facility’s commitment to patients and visitors. Shuttles can be cost effective in that they maximize parking space, improve traffic control and augment security services.


To further this point, let’s look at Rush University Medical Center. The Chicago campus had been experiencing tremendous growth over the past decade, and the amount of parking wasn’t increasing with demand. The main parking structures had become overcrowded for the day-to-day patient, visitor and employee populations.


To address this, off-site lots were discounted for employees, and a shuttle service was implemented to transport them back to the main campus. More than 600 employee vehicles were moved from the main garage, resolving the congestion issue and allowing for a parking system that served all users much more efficiently.


Efficient Patient Transportation Services Within the Medical Center


Hospitality-inspired transportation services also can apply to patient movement inside the facility. They can significantly reduce wait times and speed patient admission and discharge.


Patient “transporters” should be personable and caring, and ensure that patients experience safe and efficient point-to-point transfers, get to procedures on time, and check into and out of their rooms in a timely manner. They can dramatically affect the patient experience.


The value of such services can be seen at Southwest General Health Center in the Cleveland area. This function had been performed by the hospital’s nursing team, but using high-value clinical resources this way was inefficient and expensive.


To optimize patient transportation resources and improve patient satisfaction, Southwest General turned to healthcare support services partner ABM Healthcare to come up with a solution.


With limited budget and resources, we at ABM implemented a full-service, centralized, transport department — complete with an automated patient tracking system.


The dedicated patient transportation program at Southwest General has reportedly sped up the discharge process, improved bed throughput, and given patients a more consistent and rewarding experience.


More specifically, it has elevated on-time on-demand responses to 91%; allowed response to requests within 10 minutes some 90% of the time; and increased patient satisfaction survey scores to 4.65 out of a possible 5.


The common denominators in all the above value-added services are the individuals who provide them. The connections they can make with patients heavily influence the overall impressions that those patients form.


Kevin Dearth is Senior Vice President of Healthcare Operations, Patient Experience at ABM Healthcare. Contact him at Kevin.Dearth@abm.com.



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