In the Race for ‘Fanciest Hospital In Town’, Patient Safety Loses Out

The following two paragraphs are an excerpt from a post on Cognoscenti (cognoscenti.wbur.org). Read the full post. 

Did you hear about the hospital that spent $100 million to eliminate medical errors? Or the large healthcare system that guaranteed patient safety, fully compensating any patient who was harmed?  You might have missed these stories because, as far as I know, they didn’t happen. But as hypothetical scenarios they make an interesting contrast to two recent real news stories.

The first, reported in The New York Times, describes how hospitals are investing tens, sometimes hundreds, of millions of dollars upgrading their amenities: nail salons, around-the-clock room service, spas, concert pianists in the lobby, etc. The article includes a photo quiz, testing the reader’s ability to tell the difference between a hospital and a hotel. (I didn’t fare very well.)…..continue.

One Reply to “In the Race for ‘Fanciest Hospital In Town’, Patient Safety Loses Out”

  1. Ashish, thanks for bringing up this issue.

    I agree it is a maddening race in any city for the healthcare intuitions to spend millions to beautify the hospitals and keep on adding non medical perks to make it attractive to the clients, in this case the patients. It is mind boggling for the hospitals to be on air and talk about the aesthetic greatness and services that they offer including ‘every room promising ocean view’ and ‘each room with this gadget and that’. In many places, especially where there are larger competing hospitals, the trend is obviously more prevalent.

    What is also beyond comprehension is “How do we (or the hospitals) justify spending millions and millions for beautification?” To be specific most hospitals are under the premise of ‘Not for profit” and are governed by the principles of service first. This also usually means the hospitals don’t have tax liability on that. It can be argued that the expenses that the hospitals and healthcare systems entail are “business expenses” and are justified like any other businesses – swank car showrooms or an upscale shopping mall. This also means receiving the grants, philanthropic money and tax exempt resources. But, wait a minute while the other businesses have different working model and involve generating revenue and profits, the business of a hospital is just not that. It is not to look pretty and handsome or to get richer, and neither is it to focus on aesthetics unreasonably. Before a dollar can be spent on mere adornment, there is a patient healthcare related need that could be met. An article recently published in The Atlantic, begins with a similar notion “No matter how close a health care center comes to resembling a spa, or how well a hospital room imitates a hotel suite, its primary job is to heal, not pamper.” (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/03/how-much-should-be-spent-beautifying-hospitals/273294/)

    In contrast and on a more pragmatic note, there needs to be certain expenditures set aside to meet the standards and make the hospitals a nice and well functioning place – including aesthetic appeals. This takes me to the next chain of thoughts – “What then is the reasonable amount a hospital can spend towards beautification?” There is no clear answer and there will be none. In the very least, the hospitals and healthcare systems with ambitious aesthetic and beautification (and even otherwise) should be held accountable for proving themselves at par or beyond the regional and national benchmarks in healthcare delivery in the services that they offer. That is to say the focus should remain on the quality of actual healthcare delivery and ensuring patient safety.

    Your comment “So, we now have an arms race — who can be the fanciest hospital in town. There is no race for who can be the safest hospital in town” although ironical portrays very well the rat race to look pretty.

    Cheers!
    Deepak

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