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Community Hospital Borrows Show Biz Staging

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, October 5, 2011

When was the last time you saw someone mowing the lawn at Disney World? Or emptying the trash?

It's called the Magic Kingdom for a reason. Someone might be emptying the trash, but somehow it happens behind the scenes. Now, that backstage mentality is entering the healthcare arena.

According to a Detroit Free Press article last month, major hospitals are taking customer service cues from the folks at Disney World in an effort to boost patient satisfaction and get higher Medicare reimbursements when new rules take effect next year.

But it's not just huge hospitals that are getting in on the act. Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, a community hospital in Lafayette, Louisiana, has just opened a $211 million facility that incorporates Disney's  "onstage and backstage" mentality, says president and CEO W.F. "Bud" Barrow.

"If you come in our hospital, you do not see delivery carts, you do not see patients being transported from one unit to another, you don't see the hustle and bustle of the staff moving to and fro," he tells HealthLeaders. "All you see is a calm healing experience that's more akin to a health resort than a hospital. That's very much the impression that we wanted to leave with folks."

The hospital's central design features two long corridors running north to south. One is the onstage, non-patient care corridor, which houses the chapel, reception area, gift shop, and a guest elevator where visitors will never see a patient on a stretcher. The real business of the hospital takes place in the back corridor, behind the scenes. A security system prevents people from wandering into the patient care area unless they have an access badge.

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