The authors, from the University of Southern California Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, said their research found that hospitals are spending more on amenity improvements than on improvements in quality of care, "but improved amenities have a greater effect on hospital volume."
Consumers are making choices on where to get care based on those amenities "because they are easier to understand," the authors wrote, than complex, process or outcome measures on HospitalCompare.hhs.gov.
Indeed, just this week I read that 368-bed Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego spent $230,000 incorporating a 120-foot long garden atop the emergency room in its two-year old flagship hospital's remodel. Instead of a view of air conditioning and heating units and ugly infrastructure, patients and their families instead see 20,000 plants shape a musical staff and the first few notes of "Ode to Joy," from Beethoven's 9th Symphony. That's not all Sharp has done to improve the patient experience.
I asked Sharp CEO Dan Gross to help me pull these concepts together and he came right to the point. The garden, he says, is just the latest chapter in his organization's efforts to "embrace a new vision" about the way it provides care, a concept it developed after getting lessons from, of all places, Walt Disney World.
"We went to Disney World and the Disney Institute, and there we learned about the concept of onstage and off stage," Gross explained. "And we incorporated that into the design of our buildings and the education of our staff."
"At Disneyland, you never see any of the offstage production in front of you (like air conditioning units)," Gross explains. "And in hospitals, that means that all nursing staff, medication preparation, and conversations take place offstage. And when staff members move between departments, that's offstage too, so we created offstage pathways. Dietary tasks, transporting equipment from radiology to patient rooms, all those are done behind the scenes, and that's all a concept we pulled from Disney."