The expansion of hospotels around the world has led to the increase of the number of customers or patients who wish to visit this type of hospital and receive its distinguished services. Although the number of people who prefer hospotels during the treatment period varies from one country to another or between one region and another globally, these numbers are on the rise. Studies conducted in this field have shown that the number of patients seeking excellent care and luxury hospital services is growing year after year, without being hindered by the increased costs that this may entail for the patient. In fact, many are requesting the provision of these services in case they are not available, which made them expand steadily. The Arab world has come a long way in this regard.
Surveys conducted in Europe and the United States have confirmed that a growing number of patients are willing to spend 38% more than usual for a hospotel room. 41% of the people surveyed supported the idea of transforming traditional hospitals into hospotels.
In this context, Courtney Suess-Raesinafchi, main researcher and assistant professor in Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration, said that in the past the hospitality industry focused on restaurants, lodging or hotels, but now it appears that hospitals are increasingly focusing on patient satisfaction. This transformed hospitals into a more customer-centric model, and represented a major change that brought a lot of attention to the physical and service environment. Thus, it achieved additional profits for the hospitals that entered this type of services.
A recent study reviewed the online opinions of nearly 400 people, all of whom had been staying in hospitals in the past six months. Participants in this study examined forty hospital room designs, each featuring different combinations of hotel amenities. Both Raesinafchi and Research Associate Makarand Moody, Assistant Professor of Hospitality Marketing, expressed their interest in the amenities that patients like the most. This is after testing 18 items, including interior design, healthcare service and food choices.
As for regions, it was found that Europe ranked first in terms of the rate of hospitalization seekers in hospotels, followed by the United States, while Australia ranked third, and then other rich countries. It turned out in a separate study that the Arab world is progressing rapidly in this regard, especially the Gulf states and Egypt. In the Arab region, hospitals began to strongly shift towards this type of luxurious hospitalization.
The opinions of the surveyed patients
In terms of the surveyed patients’ opinions, it was found that they focused more on the interior design of hospitals, in addition to other matters such as food and service. For instance, one of the selected room samples in the designs contained luxurious bedding, a small kitchenette in the corner of the room, and a soft, patterned bathrobe hung on the bathroom door. There is also a type of room with a simple bed, but its walls are decorated with artistic drawings and also has healthcare staff trained to provide hospitality service with superior hotel specifications. All these facilities were labeled for ease of identification, and participants assessed the rooms to see which of them they would have chosen if they had to stay in the hospital in the future. The researchers also analyzed the results to see which amenities received the most votes.
By the end of the research, it was found that the interior design topped the list, as the participants preferred the hospital rooms with a state-of-the-art design and a modern twist, such as those with a different color-painted wall, or wooden floors. While the hospitality-trained team came in second place in this list, and the third place was for the available technology, such as high-quality flat-screen television, or similar equipment. The study showed the important relationship between healthcare and design, which may surprise some. It revealed that healthcare has always relied on the competence of doctors and nursing staff, but in fact, it has relied on a set of research that showed that hospital rooms similar to hotel rooms and with a team trained in hospitality can actually improve patient outcomes.
The study showed that design choices such as large, sunny windows, landscape or garden views, or even artistic nature scenes help reduce the patient’s stress and pain, according to a 2008 historical review by Roger Ulrich, Professor of Architecture at the Center for Healthcare Building Research at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and a team of colleagues. The study examined the opinions of a number of doctors about what they observed, whether from the patients’ course of recovery or their satisfaction, and the answer was that patients who were staying in sunny rooms experienced less pain, and consumed less pain relievers by 20% compared to those who lived in rooms without sunlight.
Both Raesinafchi and Modi asked participants how much more they would be willing to pay for a luxury hotel-like room than a standard room. On average, they were willing to pay 38% more than they would normally spend for a hospotel room. They stressed that such services were shown by conclusive evidence that they are not a detail or for mere entertainment, but are at the heart of the hospital work in the modern sense.
It was also found that there are different choices between two groups of participants: “the least healthy” and “the healthiest”. The “least healthy” participants who spent more time in hospital and whose physical and mental health were less than the “healthiest” group were willing to pay 44% more for a hospotel room, while the “healthiest” group were willing to pay only 31% more. They stressed that some of the hotel’s luxury amenities, such as a kitchenette equipped with a refrigerator and a coffee machine, are tools that patients’ visitors may benefit from if they are staying for a long time.
#HOSPOTEL implementation in the Arab world
But what about the cost of converting standard rooms into hospotel rooms, and how do their management department view this change, as the Arab world is witnessing an important development in this regard?
Specialists believe that some of these changes are neither difficult to implement nor expensive, such as changing the hospital’s lighting, painting the walls or putting artistic drawings, which will be positive changes that will lead to increased financial returns, improve the rooms’ interior design, gain patient satisfaction, and even improve their health. Hospital administrations stress that they really want to check the impact of hospitality and well-being on the physical, mental, psychological and social aspects of patients and their families.
In the Arab world, many countries, especially the Gulf countries, have begun to strongly shift to hospotels in terms of design, equipment and services. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for example, Saudi chefs have been appointed to prepare meals for patients, by applying the hotel system, and giving the patient the opportunity to choose his favorite three main meals on a daily basis, after assessing the appropriate nutrition for him according to the recommendations of the attending physician and a nutrition specialist. The medical complex applies the electronic system to measure patient satisfaction with nutritional services, in line with the vision of the Ministry of Health to achieve one of its goals to raise the level of patient satisfaction. The equipment is being constantly updated by establishing guest rooms in each of the regular inpatient floors that operate around the clock to serve the patient and his family.
In the UAE, the Dubai Health Authority added a distinctive hotel medical service at the Latifa Hospital for Women and Children, where the Authority created “Al Bustan Suites”, to surround women with more care and intensive care before and after surgery and delivery, in an important step in which “Dubai Health” is proceeding towards providing competitive, high-quality services, and multiple options for customers in its hospitals in general. “Al Bustan Suites” are characterized by a hotel atmosphere in terms of accommodation, quality and method of serving meals, general atmosphere and top furnishing, in addition to providing more entertainment facilities, while meeting any other personal needs in accordance with the protocols in force within the Authority’s hospitals. It is worth noting that benefiting from the 15 “Al Bustan Suites” is optional.
Egypt has also adopted the principle of hospotel service for years, as it began distributing packaged hotel meals to inpatients, as well as to workers from doctors, nurses, technicians and their support groups, in 15 general, central and specialized hospitals in Alexandria, so that about 60,000 patients benefit from the service annually. Of course, the same applies to other regions of the country. There are also other countries that adopt the same matter, including Qatar and Jordan.
These are just examples of some of what is being achieved in the Arab world at the level of hospotels, whose adoption is expanding more and more in different countries, with very distinctive designs, equipment and services. It keeps pace with the world’s wide adoption of hospotels. And all this after it became clear how satisfied patients are with these services and the positive health and psychological impact it has on them, as well as its financial return on the sector as a whole.