Intravenous Merlot?

28 Oct

I grew up on an island off the coast of southeast Georgia. It’s a resort area–nice hotels, fancy restaurants, first-rate golf courses, and miles of sandy beaches. But like I said, I grew up there, it wasn’t vacation for me. Right after high school, I started working summers as a phlebotomist at the local hospital. Each summer, I had to sit through a two-day-long orientation, and each summer, it bored me to tears. One summer, however, the hospital got a new CEO, and he came to speak to us at orientation (unlike the prior CEO who “spoke” to us via videotape). He said something that struck me.

“We live in an area where people come to stay on vacation and spend as much as $500 a night for their room. When they pay that much money, they have certain expectations about the level of service that they will receive. They expect their room to be clean. They expect the staff to be pleasant. They expect the best of everything. We are a hospital, not a resort. But many of the people who are admitted here will spend more for a night with us than they would for an oceanfront room. We should realize that, and exceed even their greatest expectations.”

It was an interesting point, but I found myself thinking about all of the reasons why the analogy didn’t hold up. The most prominent one in my mind was this: People choose where to go on vacation. They don’t choose to go to a hospital, they go because they’re sick. Well, that’s not entirely true anymore.

Apparently, competition is getting tougher, and hospitals are competing in ever stranger ways. Exhibit A, Parkview Ortho Hospital in Indiana, where patients are permitted to drink wine if their doctor says it’s okay and have a steak dinner before being discharged. The full story, which you can read here, makes it sound less like a cold and sterile linoleum lined environment with harsh fluorescent lighting and the incessant beeping of medical technology, and more like a place you might want to go to on purpose just to get away from it all for a few days. The hassles of insurance have already led to a growing movement of physicians deciding to establish concierge or boutique medicine practices. Might we be about to embark upon the age of the resort hospital? After all, if your options are get a knee replaced and deal with it or get a knee replaced and enjoy your choice of filet or lobster, which would you choose?


Posted by on October 28, 2010 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “Intravenous Merlot?

  1. Michael Kirsch, M.D.

    October 28, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    A new community hospital opened in our area, private rooms, flat screen TVs, etc. This has resulted in many cases of acute and subacute patient envy.

  2. Jan Baer

    October 31, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    This subject came up in Maggie Mahar's work several years ago when the question of hospitals' tax-exempt status was raised. Her suggestion was that tax exemptions were originally granted because non-profit hospitals served the poor, but in recent years hospitals have nudged their way into high-value, upscale real estate where the poor can no longer reach them easily. The property tax exemptions hurt the communities while raising revenues for hospitals by attracting upscale patients with generous insurance policies.I can't think of any hospitals which haven't built huge and handsome facilities to attract selective patients, while at the same time complaining that they can't make a dime because the poor can't pay.What's up with that?


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