Healthcare and Hospitality

Putting the “Hilton” into “Hospitals” or Lessons from Mickey Mouse

Hospitals and Hotels; 2 buildings with rooms and beds. Both words as well as ‘hostel and hospice’ originate from the same root Latin word ‘hospes’ meaning guest or stranger. ‘Patient’ comes from ‘patior’, which means to suffer so etymologically at least, a hospital can be interpreted as a place where strangers come together to suffer. Both places want the experiences to be happy (relatively) and comfortable. The divergence occurs in mission and the essence of the environment. Hospitals are about process and need-based outcome experiences. The hospitality industry is about experiences of choice, desire and positivity-the warm fuzzies. The question becomes this; Can we bring the hospitality mentality into the hospital setting? Humanizing experiences like admissions, scheduling, discharge and wait-times or focusing on the soft things like the physical environment-chairs, beverages, artwork, noise and restrooms can bring a little ‘hotel’ into ‘hospital’. Putting smiles into systems. As hospitals face greater competition and value-based clientele, it is no longer enough for patients and family to just have medical needs met so improving the hospitality culture seems a sound strategy.

Hospitals have their routines, the way things have always been done with systems designed to suit staff rather than patients but that is no longer good enough. Medicare/Medicaid started tracking patient satisfaction in 2012 and tied reimbursements to patient satisfaction survey results. Facilities that ranked lower on these saw their payments reduced. The Affordable Care Act also weighed in on this. “The financial penalties introduced by the Affordable Care Act are part of a broader effort to transform health-care delivery and improve quality while reining in costs, increasing transparency and holding hospitals and providers accountable for their work.” Penalties are based on hospital rankings compared to other hospitals. These patient satisfaction surveys collected after discharge measure such things as communications from doctors & nurses, procedure and medication explanations, attentiveness, cleanliness, quiet and respect. Roughly 72% of patients make their healthcare decisions based on word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends (Beryl Institute) and out of pocket expenses are also causing patients to search out information on the Internet or the Medicare comparison site for reviews. Think YELP for hospitals.


Disney has lessons that the data-driven Healthcare Profession can mimic. Disney has learned to harness the power of data in their ongoing efforts to drive and sustain business. It can be broken down into 3 key elements:

Understand the Guest (Patient/family member)

Disney uses market research and satisfaction surveys to identify opportunities to change, grow and enhance the guest experience. They also listen to and place a very high value on data recovered from face-to-face interactions with everyone on staff and improvement plans are implemented when flaws are detected. Listen to what CNA’s are saying. Never underestimate the power of what the hospitality industry calls service recovery. Empathy and apologies go a long way.

Everyone is a Performer (Care-provider)

Everyone is expected to be friendly, courteous, respectful and attentive through smiles, eye contact, clear and timely communication and anticipating needs. The Disney performers are always ‘ON’ and are expected to conduct themselves accordingly. It is a powerful visual to see the CEO or CFO picking up a bit of trash in the hallway.

Owning the Guest (Empower the staff)

Disney Performers actively seek out interactions with guests. Pictures with performers and guests are the most obvious but all staff are encouraged to temporarily pause their duties if anyone appears to need assistance. Giving directions can evolve into escorting people to places or handing them off to others. The philosophy is that these interactions are not a burden, but a privilege, the reason for your job. Everyone is empowered to resolve concerns to the best of their ability or locate someone who can. Obviously, there are restrictions in a hospital but the motivation can remain the same.

Healthcare today is subject to many forces pulling in many directions simultaneously. Hospitals are increasingly learning from patient surveys, market research, family advisory panels and their staff. Cost reduction, reimbursements, staffing, readmission rates, patient outcomes, in short, all business and financial goals do not have to take a back seat to improving the service culture. The organizational flow which prioritizes strategic decisions while understanding what it is like to be a patient means the guest-centered hospitality mentality can be balanced with a patient-centric ideal concerned with comfort and care. ‘Customer Satisfaction’ as a bullet point on a Mission Statement is inadequate in today’s climate. Focusing on the totality of the patient experience needs to be a living, breathing entity in the organizational philosophy from the front door through all levels of health professionals up to the C-Suite. Huge strides have already been made and the industry continues to strive for excellence in this arena.

The interim healthcare professionals at NHS Solutions take this philosophy to heart. Our Interim Managers and Directors of Case Management as well as our Interim Quality and Patient Safety professionals play key roles in patient satisfaction. Every clinical and non-clinical interim nurse leader is experienced in what it takes to improve the hospitality in their respective departments. Contact us for an introduction to interim leadership as a next career step or to discuss the benefits of working with NHS Solutions to fill leadership gaps at your facility. 

Accessibility Toolbar