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Medical center hotels can improve patient outcomes

Patient hotels are an upscale alternative to hospital stays. But improved patient outcomes and recovery times, often driven by cutting-edge technologies, are supporting broader healthcare disruptions.

Patient hotels are an upscale and quieter alternative to noisy, more spartan hospital stays. Such hybrid facilities combine continuous access to excellent medical care with the on-demand amenities of luxury hotels. The price is beyond the reach of most patients the world over, but the data flow is spurring a rethink on how healthcare is delivered to achieve maximum patient benefit across all income levels.

In an unexpected twist wherein the rich rather than the poor are the experimental subjects, patient hotels provide the perfect testing ground for new healthcare models, technologies, and medical breakthroughs. From personalized medicine to robotics and 3D medical imaging, the theoretical becomes applied science in the plushest, most resource-rich environments available.

What a patient hotel looks like

There are patient hotels in operation today, and Scandinavia has largely led the way.

Lund University Hospital in Sweden opened a patient hotel in 1988 as a way to free more hospital beds for incoming patients. It is widely considered to be the first patient hotel built, according to a report in Quartz.

One opened in 2015 on the campus of Rigshospitalet, a specialized care hospital in Denmark. Simply called Patient Hotel, it houses long-term care patients, both self-sufficient and ambulatory patients, and medical tourism patients who seek top-quality care and treatments that are not available in their own countries.

Norlandia is one of the largest patient hotel chains in the region with four facilities. Two are in Norway, one in Sweden, and another in Finland. Notably, accommodations in Norlandia Patient Hotels can be booked by anyone—the patient, a relative of the patient, a business traveler, or a tourist.

Even so, a patient hotel is still a medical facility, and design considerations impose themselves against more luxurious accommodations in fancier hotels. For one thing, surfaces must be easy to clean and disinfect. To accommodate the infirmed and mobility challenged, bathrooms must be designed for function rather than Architectural Digest-type features. Also, communications between guests and staff need to be ubiquitous, and room access by multiple staff is necessary in case of an emergency.

"Accommodations at patient hotels resemble most traditional three-star hotel properties, usually with an onsite restaurant, lounges, parking facilities, free Wi-Fi. Rooms are uncluttered with simple, modern décor and furnished with a desk, a mini-bar, a flat-screen TV, and in-suite bathroom facilities," the Quartz report says.

 

Gatehouse Capital is an example of a U.S. company that owns and invests in patient hotels, a business commonly referred to as medical hospitality. In 2017, Gatehouse opened a 132-suite Home2 Suites by Hilton hotel on the Dallas campus of Baylor University Medical Center.

However, in the U.S., medical hospitality is more than simply a term for patient hotel. American hospitals tend to incorporate hospitality amenities to gain higher patient satisfaction scores, which directly impact hospital reimbursements from insurance, primarily from Medicare and Medicaid.

"We found that patient demand correlates much better to amenities than quality of care," said Dr. John Romley, a research professor at the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California, in a New York Times article. "That means that hospitals can improve their bottom line and their reputation by focusing more on hospitality than healthcare—offering organic food by a celebrity chef rather than lowering medication errors, for example."

While the patient hotel and medical hospitality concepts are still in their infancy, the future of healthcare looks promising as more healthcare efficiencies are gained through evolving technologies and a renewed focus on the patient rather than medical processes.

How patient hospitals came to be

While patient hotels may appear to be decadent or even far-fetched science fiction on the surface, the rise of patient hotels and medical tourism sprang from earthly and practical roots: Hospitals around the world are routinely proving to be stumbling blocks to recovery at best and outright toxic at worst. Hospital problems are diverse, covering the gamut from in-patient falls and hospital-acquired diseases to staff shortages and overlooked patient safety protocols.

According to an American Nurse report, "About 3 percent of hospitalized patients fall, and about 25 percent of patients who fall sustain an injury, which can range from minor bruises to serious injuries such as fractures and subdural hematomas."

Healthcare-associated infections are also on the rise and are often antibiotic-resistant, making them difficult to treat or, in some cases, survive. According to an Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion report on health.gov, "At any given time, about one in 25 inpatients have an infection related to hospital care. These infections lead to the loss of tens of thousands of lives and cost the U.S. healthcare system billions of dollars each year."

Adverse events in hospital settings are common globally. A recent report from the World Health Organization (WHO) on patient safety estimates that as many as one in 10 patients are harmed while receiving hospital care in high-income countries, and nearly 50 percent of those occurrences are considered preventable. In low- and middle-income countries, the adverse event rate in hospitals is 8 percent, with 83 percent of those events considered preventable and 30 percent associated with patient death.

Some of the hospital inpatient adverse events can be attributed to continuing staff shortages: In just the U.S., the Association of American Medical Colleges projects a 100,000 shortfall in the number of available doctors by 2030, while WHO estimates the current global shortage of physicians, nurses, and other health professionals is 4.3 million, with the biggest impact of shortages in developing nations. And the problem is expected to escalate given "the increasingly stringent immigration restrictions that may cut off some of the foreign-born physicians who would otherwise help meet the demand."

But there are equally dire shortages in other staffing positions, such as nursing and technician jobs. In a paper published in the July 2017 Journal of Nursing Regulation, researchers project that "1 million RNs will retire by 2030" and that "the departure of such a large cohort of experienced RNs means that patient care settings and other organizations that depend on RNs will face a significant loss of nursing knowledge and expertise that will be felt for years to come." Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates demand for lab workers has grown 13 percent in the past year, which is "almost double the average for other U.S. jobs," according to a report in Scientific American.

Adverse drug events, hospital-acquired infections, and procedural complications cause most deaths and hospital readmissions after discharge, according to WHO's patient safety report. Further, nearly 40 percent of patients are discharged with test results pending, resulting in a failure to treat issues promptly, if at all. WHO reports that discontinuity between inpatient and outpatient providers is common worldwide, leading to another batch of adverse effects, including those springing from a lack of medication reconciliation and a rise in medication discrepancies.

The organization adds, "There is increasing concern that the stressful hospital environment may lead to post-hospitalization syndrome—a pathophysiologic syndrome of weakness and increased stress that may leave patients vulnerable to clinical adverse events such as falls and infections."

Given such problems, the advent of an alternative to stressful hospital environments aimed at improving patient outcomes was perhaps inevitable.

Further, adverse conditions common to hospitals are not sustainable in a for-profit business model. Hospitals may at some point follow an already established path to increased revenues and lower risks: a focus on core competencies and outsourcing of other functions, as well as increased adoption rates of machine learning, robotics, and automation.

Even the budgets of entire countries suffer from problems associated with hospital adverse events. For example, in Canada, at least $1 out of every $7 "is spent treating the effects of patient harm in hospital care," according to WHO.

Patient hotels, with their ability to afford the latest in medical technology and drive cutting-edge technologies into the marketplace, at least in concept, appear to address patient concerns, hospital goals, and overstretched national budgets.

Technology trends driving hospitality in healthcare

There are competing schools of thought on whether hospitals are better served by partnering with hoteliers to build patient hotels on their campuses or by augmenting hospital services with hotel-like amenities throughout existing facilities.

In the first scenario, a hospital is essentially outsourcing recovery and rehabilitation services to another business entity, which can also be partially or totally owned by the hospital. This approach enables the primary hospital entity to focus strictly on acute, emergency, and surgical care while also creating new revenue streams from the secondary entity.

In the latter scenario, a hospital can quickly raise patient satisfaction scores and thus speed up insurance reimbursements for better cash flow. However, a focus on amenities over quality of care can eventually stall reimbursements again, through penalties for problems like hospital-acquired infections and high readmission rates.

In either case, the availability of boutique services and cutting-edge medical technologies has positive implications for long-term medical advances. While many of the technologies being adopted at the cutting edge start out as prohibitively expensive for general use, their costs start to decrease as the collateral benefits of many of these technologies—shorter patient stays, fewer return visits, and better long-term quality of life—show cost advantages as they are adopted and as higher adoption rates begin to show the cost benefits of scale.

Whether hospitals partner to provide patient hotels or augment their existing services, strategic use of an array of technologies can improve patient outcomes and satisfaction scores. Here are four technologies that are driving the hospitality-in-healthcare trend today:

  • Personalized medicine—genomics. Personalized medicine is the delivery of customized medical care designed from a specific patient's genes. Not only are cures and treatments more effective and generally faster this way, but dangerous side effects and allergic reactions are lessened or eliminated too. The list of technologies and tools necessary to pull off this modern-day miracle include bioinformatics, genomics, population genomics, big data, analytics, machine learning, and epigenetic drug development.
  • Provider phone apps. Healthcare phone apps enable providers to view X-rays and other medical imagery as well as many lab test results directly on the provider's phone. The digitalization of this information also delivers faster results to speed patient care and reduce patient wait times. If the apps come with machine learning capabilities or integrations, they can even suggest a diagnosis and treatment. Patient apps can facilitate telemedicine sessions, which further lower costs and wait times, and add convenience to the patient hotel and medical hospitality concepts.
  • Edge computing. Edge computing is computing where the data is generated rather than in a data center, enabling real-time actions, such as the operation of an autonomous car so it doesn't crash. In healthcare, edge computing can be used to enable things such as smart bedsheets that can analyze a patient's sweat or a variety of portable equipment designed to monitor a patient's condition or dispense medications as needed. Edge computing is what makes things "smart" and able to react in real time. Expect more healthcare equipment to evolve or be invented with smart capabilities.
  • Swarm computing. Swarm computing is also known as a form of swarm intelligence. Think of it as the ultimate sharing of compute performance and knowledge within a defined "swarm." In the case of healthcare, the swarm is not made of bees but a hospital system or healthcare ecosystem, a physicians' group, or even a patient advocacy group. Regardless of how the swarm is defined, the concept remains the same: shared computing that is stronger, faster, and better than computing using one device. In medicine, some of the most promising uses of swarm computing is the sharing of algorithm outcomes with each hospital, provider, or lab in the swarm so that the knowledge is instantly accessible to every member of the swarm. This saves time and lives. If, for example, there is a specific disease outbreak in a local area, every hospital emergency room can know about it and how to treat it within minutes.

The rise of medical hotels: Lesson for leaders

  • Medical hospitality can bring cutting-edge technologies to a broader range of patients.
  • Less stressful hospital stays result in improved patient outcomes.
  • The introduction of new technologies to make boutique medicine more saleable has the benefit of making such technologies available to all.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.