What Disney Can Teach Hospitals About Patient-Centered Care

Cheryl Clark, December 2, 2010

Next week, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement will draw nearly 6,000 health leaders to Orlando for its annual forum, once again held right next door to Walt Disney World.

Perusing the program, I see that along with many sessions devoted to "patient-centered care" and "the patient experience," one can take special training field trips to Sea World, Universal Studios, and the Central Florida Zoo.

On these theme park excursions, the program says, quality thought leaders can learn lessons about improving care from the folks who perfect the art of fun, the theme parks' staff.

Hospitals and Shamu? At first, I thought the connection was a stretch.

But it got me thinking. 

Lately, it seems my e-mail and journal readings are increasingly speckled with phrases like "patient amenities," "family-centered care," and patient satisfaction," concepts distinct from whether the patient receives the appropriate tests, diagnosis, drugs and medical procedures and, hopefully, is not harmed along the way.

It seems there's a lot more talk about making hospitals work more like hotels and spas, and doctors more like maître d's. Actually, in just two years, some component of Medicare's reimbursement formula will probably be based on Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) satisfaction scores, or so the Affordable Care Act directs.  If it's true that improving amenities really does translate to more satisfied and happy patients, hospitals might increase their federal payments.

Now the Orlando connection makes sense.

To underscore the point, a Perspective in the current New England Journal of Medicine carries the headline "The Emerging Importance of Patient Amenities in Hospital Care."


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