IN-TREND: Hotel-like hospitals are catching on in Singapore and Malaysia as patients seek a more holistic and even ‘luxurious’ ambiance in a hospital environment
Stereotypes abound when it comes to hospitals. Hospitals are long associated with a sterile and intimidating atmosphere which gives rise to feelings of unease in those having to visit them for whatever reason. Horror stories of rude and even downright incompetent medical staff merely add to the negative air surrounding these establishments. Bland food and generally inhospitable ambience add to the “unhappy” environment.
However, a rising trend of much better ambience in some private hospitals may help change the negative perception especially if government hospitals follow suit.
Over the last decade, the private healthcare industry overseas has moved beyond merely providing basic facilities and amenities in the course of medical treatment. Increasingly, private hospitals are growing to resemble high-class hotels when it comes to design, interiors and services.
The difference is felt as soon as one arrives at such hospitals, especially since some healthcare establishments provide valet parking services. On entering the hospital itself, one is met by warm greetings much like those provided by the concierge of a hotel. Then there are also lobbies and visitors’ lounges with modern design and lavish decor rivalling those of five-star hotels, some with multiple fireplaces accentuating the welcoming atmosphere. Many private hospitals especially in developed countries now have high-end coffee shops and amenities within their premises.
Actual accommodations have also seen major changes from the normally minimalistic and even bare rooms for patients to exclusive and spacious suites with luxurious furnishings and plush interiors. Patients certainly don’t feel like they are confined in a hospital.
Along with a sense of privacy often lacking in more traditional and usually cramped establishments, patients have access to a host of hotel amenities ranging from Wi-Fi access and large-screen TV to on-demand entertainment and even massage therapies and room service menus with dozens of tantalising options available.
Additionally, many private hospitals are placing increasing importance on having elements of nature within their compounds. As a result, such hospitals boast beautifully landscaped gardens and serene natural surroundings where patients can reconnect with nature during the healing process.
Given that more traditional healthcare establishments usually have a focus on practical furniture and functional spaces, such drastic differences are proving to be an increasingly popular alternative among those seeking higher-end healthcare services.
Driving this trend of ‘hospitable’ hospitals is an increasingly patientcentred approach to healthcare, where the
goal is to improve patient experience as well as augment the healing process. To achieve this goal, the healthcare industry has thus taken many a leaf out of the hospitality sector’s book — with some hospitals even directly recruiting hospitality experts to their cause.
Such was the case of former Ritz- Carlton hotelier Gerard van Grinsven who is now the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital in Michigan, USA. With more than 25 years’ experience in the luxury hospitality industry, van Grinsven introduced elements traditionally exclusive to hotels into the 300-bed, $360 million (RM1.13 billion) facility such as luxury suites, mini-hotel rooms for visitors, yoga classes and fresh to-order food and etc.
“Our services are designed to enhance the patient experience and aid in the healing process,” van Grinsven was quoted as saying. “Our offerings are not luxury services; they are wellness services.”
“Whether it is health coaching or acupuncture (or) a visit by our patient concierge, a cooking class designed to educate patients on their conditions or a visit to our therapeutic organic greenhouse — they all have one purpose – to deliver an experience that transforms lives and communities through health and wellness, one person at a time.”
Van Grinsven’s migration from the hospitality industry to the ‘hospitable’ healthcare sector is by no means a unique case. Looking closer to home, has this rising trend finally become more than a fixture in our private healthcare sector?
By all appearances, the answer would be yes. “This trend is becoming more evident in hospitals across Singapore and Malaysia,” says Dr Tan See Leng, Executive Director of IHH Healthcare Berhad which is Asia’s largest hospital operator.
Dr Mohamad Nasir Zahari, Medical Director of Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur, agrees and notes that the “standard of facilities and care has improved exponentially.” “Local patients enjoy the paradigm shift towards higher standards at par with (international standards),” adds Dr Mohamad, remarking further that “patients from overseas are very impressed with the standard of medical care and services [here] that is beyond their expectations.”
Dr Tan points to the need for constant improvement in terms of what hospitals can offer patients as a factor driving this development in the region. “Increasingly, hospitals are more focused on catering to the patient’s needs in terms of better facilities, amenities and atmosphere,
beyond providing quality medical care.”
However, the trend comes with its own price tag. Private hospitals in this mould are typically more expensive than even the typical private hospitals.
This is due to “higher investment and operational costs”, notes Dr Mohamad of Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre. “At the moment, we are catering for the top 20 per cent of the population and patients from countries with higher socio-economic status,” adds Dr Mohamad.
Trends aside, do such improvements in terms of patient experience have any positive impact on the patient’s well being?
Healing through architecture
“From a clinical viewpoint, a more comfortable and conducive environment definitely aids the healing process,” says Dr Tan, who is also the Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Parkway Pantai Limited. “Patients can recover physically and mentally in comfort
and peace without being constantly reminded that they are undergoing treatment in a hospital.”
Dr Mohamad who is also a Consultant Plastic, Reconstructive and Cosmetic Surgeon further elaborates that hotel-like facilities in hospitals would cover all the basic needs for daily living and on top of that, go beyond those needs by seeing to the comfort and well-being of patients. “Patients will feel at home and will be psychologically better able to withstand the effect of post-operative recovery period.”
Indeed, the last decade or so has seen much academic research into ‘healing architecture’, which refers to the use and ability of architectural elements in promoting healing in people by creating a ‘healing environment’. Such an environment is underpinned by the concept that a patient’s perception of his or her physical surroundings affects his or her sense of well-being and, by extension, health.
According to Sarly Adre Sarkum, Director of BDA Architects Sdn Bhd, this holistic approach accords respect towards the natural ways that people heal and recuperate — beyond medication and into the environmental factor itself. “You want spaces that are open and pleasant; they do not have to be high-end.”
Sarly also points out the importance of natural ventilation and lighting. “For example, you would want a resort-like facility with courtyard and lots of fresh air, so that people can walk around with ease of movement. Studies have shown that people recuperating in these conditions get well faster.” Dr Tan of Parkway Pantai Limited agrees and points to Parkway’s own Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital as an example of this concept at work. Apart from floor-to-ceiling windows letting in natural light, the hospital uses warm colours to create a comforting, friendly feel to the hospital. “We also created ample green spaces for patients to relax and soothe their senses amidst lush greenery.”
And the positive effects are not just limited to patients, says Dr Tan. “Such an environment also has a positive impact on our staff and in turn they are better able to care for the patients.” Hospital architecture evolving? With such developments in the private healthcare industry, can we expect hospital architecture to evolve in line with ‘healing architecture’? The answer is not so simple. Ezlina Adnan, Lecturer at the Department of Architecture, Faculty of Built Environment in University of Malaya, is doubtful. “I don’t think you can generalise the design for hospitals (because) all hospitals have its specific technical requirements unlike other institutional buildings.”
Does that mean technical requirements limit architectural innovation for hospitals beyond a certain point? Ezlina’s short answer is yes.
On the other hand, Dr Mohamad of Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre is more optimistic. “The medicalm centres will of course have to follow strictly the current requirement for safety and standards as determinedby the Ministry of Health and all certification bodies such MSQH and
JCI,” acknowledges Dr Mohamad.
“Then only comes the design that will provide state of the art look and feel, to provide the utmost comfort for treatment and recovery.” Architect Sarly points out that the initiative to improve the quality of design in such hospitals must come from the Ministry of Health itself as designers are bound by guidelines and standards currently in place.
Looking at the bigger picture, the general expectation of those seeking to engage healthcare services has certainly risen.
“I believe there will be increased pressure on hospitals and medical centres to provide higher quality of services to their patients,” says Dr Tan of IHH Healthcare and Parkway Pantai. “Whether this takes on the form of a hotel-like hospital, the main goal is to deliver the best medical service and facilities to our patients.”
“With medical advances, there is a likelihood that the length of in-patient stay may get increasingly shorter. Having said that, this has to be balanced with the setting up of more community hospitals as the population ages. Therefore, the emphasis on a hotel-like environment may need to be tweaked to cater to the patient mix depending on where the hospitals are sited,” concludes Dr Tan.
Read more: COVER STORY: Hotel-like hospitals get popular – RED – New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/red/cover-story-hotel-like-hospitals-get-popular-1.239153#ixzz2OEU6gayZ