Putting the Hospitality in Hospitals

When was the last time your hospital stay felt like a visit to the spa? According to a recent New York Times article, many hospitals are spending money on amenities like room service and nail salons in an attempt to attract patients.

Apparently the decision to splurge on luxury is driven by basic supply and demand. Dr. John Romley, a research professor who studies health care, told the Times “patient demand correlates much better to amenities than quality of care.” Hospitals are simply responding to the desires of their target market.

This brings to mind an earlier Times story about Huguette Clark, a wealthy heiress who spent the last two decades of her life in Beth Israel Medical Center. Clark donated millions to the hospital in addition to the fees she paid to live there. Perhaps other hospitals are sprucing up in the hopes of regularly servicing similarly affluent clientele.

While gourmet food and flat screen TVs are welcome, the money would be better spent on reducing medical errors and improving the quality of care provided. Patients should be made as comfortable as possible, but hospitals exist to make sick people better, not cater to their every desire. I’d much rather receive standard amenities if it meant the money was invested in speeding up my recovery.

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