Do 'upscale' hospitals offer better care?

Everyone likes good customer service and some savvy companies are tapping into a growing demand for concierge-level service in a number of industries, including hospitals.

Among the amenities some hospitals are making available — for a price — are flat-screen televisions, personal chefs, Internet access — even video games, hairstylists and luxury bedding. Patient are demonstrating they’re willing to spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000 out of pocket for such “boutique-style” amenities.

I’m always going to be in favor of more consumer choice. With more and more hospitals offering these services, others are likely to follow their example in order to compete.

I am concerned, though, that the core offering of hospitals — competent medical care — remain available to every patient, whether the patient is sharing a room or has a private room with every perk there is to offer.

While few oppose the offering of concierge services, more than half of members who responded to our poll on the topic believe patients who pay more for enhanced hospital services are also getting better overall care. “Hospital fees are already off the charts,” says Seattle member Marion Clair. “While I would like [those amenities] to be available to me, I think the level of care is what really counts. I’m afraid that, in spite of claims to the contrary, people who are able to afford the extra luxuries for an extra fee will also get extra good medical care.”

About 20 percent of you said you’re completely opposed to the luxury service idea, including Reynoldsburg, Ohio, member and registered nurse Becky Wells. “It takes away from the care,” Wells says. “We’re there to help people recover or deal with their illness, and hardly have enough time to sit and get to know the patients anymore. Plus how would you feel if your roommate had insurance and you didn’t — much less a personal chef?”

Many of you in favor of these services cite the fact that comfortable surroundings can lead to an overall improved mental state, thus promoting faster healing from whatever ails you. Having a private room was the most important feature for our members, followed by Internet access, unlimited visiting hours, and a personal patient advocate. “Hospital stays can be traumatic,” says Schenectady, N.Y., member Dave Bradshaw. “Anything to ease one’s mind while staying in the hospital should be considered.”

Still, the bottom line for many members is how well patients are being cared for during their hospital stay. I think it’s safe to say the vast majority of us would prefer competent care first to any additional luxuries. “Decent treatment by the hospital staff would go a long way, and nice coffee doesn’t really make up for bad service,” says Chevy Chase, Md., member Vanya Wright.

What do you think? Have you paid more to get additional amenities at a hospital? Do you feel like you received better, more attentive care in that situation?

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