The Latin root for “hospital” is from Old French “hoste,” which means “host” or “guest.” Synonyms for host are multitude, abundance and wealth.
That’s not what we think of when we imagine a hospital today. Too often we take what is presented without asking why. For example, why can’t a hospital be more like a luxury hotel than a hospital?
When I think of a hospital I think of fear and bad vibes. Patients are afraid of staff, and staff are scared of being sued. We think of aloof doctors and under-appreciated administration. Vulnerable patients are abrasively stuffed into a system that doesn’t want them there.
The hospital that morphs itself into a luxury hotel, now that’s something to think about. It all comes down to innovation and customer experience.
Here are 10 examples of customer experience innovation that transform the hospital to be more like a luxury hotel.
1. Virtual Reality
Instead of having to travel to a doctor’s office for treatment, VR allows patients to get the care they need from the comfort of their own home. A recent study gave patients VR glasses and a virtual coach who put them through a series of virtual scenarios to address their fear of heights. The test patients overcame their fears much better than those who didn’t use VR glasses. This technology can extend to other mental health treatments to make care easier to access, more convenient and less expensive.
2. Artificial Intelligence
AI has the power to transform nearly everything about healthcare. However, the biggest impact of AI and machine learning may be in scheduling and logistics. AI can be programmed for improved ordering, smarter billing and adaptive staffing to make sure patients have access to the right staff and get billed properly, which are some of the biggest pain points in healthcare. More than 1,700 hospitals around the country use 3M’s AI-powered medical coding program, which speeds up the billing and coding process with 98% accuracy.
3. Internet of Things
Devices connected to the Internet of Things like smartwatches and fitness trackers allow care providers to better track their patients. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic use fitness trackers to remotely measure the activity levels of cardiac patients. More movement typically leads to a faster recovery from surgery.
4. Big Data
Many offices are creating data analytics systems to track patient trends and take advantage of the massive amount of data in healthcare. This information can help see what times of day are most popular for appointments and track the spread of diseases for preventive action. Propeller uses GPS-enabled inhalers to track trends and create better treatment plans for people suffering from asthma. Instead of manually sorting through input, big data makes it easy to see when and where patients are using their inhalers.
5. Lighting Control Systems
Hospitals are known for being cramped and having lots of artificial light. Studies have shown that patients treated in sunny rooms have shorter stays than those treated in darker rooms. Some hospitals, like Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minnesota, are moving to lighting control systems that put the power in the hands of the patients. Masonic Children’s uses a patient-controlled lighting system to help regulate circadian rhythms and decrease hospital stays in babies and children
6. Individual Temperature Controls
Some patients run hot, while other patients need their rooms to be warmer to treat their symptoms. In an effort to increase patient comfort, hospitals are installing individual temperature controls that allow each patient to set their room to their comfort level. Penn Medicine’s Princeton Medical Center uses these systems so that patients can set their room to the right temperature for better comfort.
7. Virtual Networks
Patients are often seen by multiple doctors, but there can be a lack of communication between the care team. Many providers are turning to virtual networks to connect providers and break down the traditional silos of patient data. Kaiser Permanente dermatologists in San Diego review images of skin conditions and share the information instantly with each patient’s primary care provider. Seeing patients virtually allows them to serve 50% more patients a month and quickly keep the entire care team in the loop.
Many patients avoid getting the care they need because it is inconvenient to make an appointment, travel to the doctor’s office and wait to be seen. Telemedicine opens doors for patients to be seen virtually from their house at a time that is convenient for them. The University of Arkansas uses a telemedicine program to better serve high-risk pregnant women in rural areas. Because these patients can now get care virtually, infant mortality rates have dropped in the region.
Chatbots can replace nearly every human interaction in the scheduling and billing processes. The majority of patients say the healthcare scheduling system needs to be digitized and automated. Many clinics are partnering with chatbots like Florence, a health assistant that can schedule appointments, give medication reminders, and more. Instead of waiting on hold, patients can simply chat or talk to a chatbot to set up a convenient time and get a reminder.
10. Employee Feedback
Some of the most customer-focused hospitals have a culture of innovation that stems from opening the door to feedback. Many clinics allow employees to make suggestions about how to improve the experience for patients and providers. Boston Children’s Hospital’s Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator allows employees of all levels to suggest new technology and innovation and even awards grant money for them to make it happen.
Blake Morgan is a keynote speaker, author and futurist.