0ctober 13, 2005, Vol. III Issue 21
Have you ever noticed that hospitals and hotels have at least two things in common: rooms and food service? But what about hospitality? Think about it: hospital, hospitality. Now there’s a commonality. Yet hospitality is not a word commonly associated with hospitals, is it? Can the connection be made? Does it have value? You’ll find out, starting in this issue.
We usually focus on health and wellness issues, women’s health, nurses appreciation, etc. Our speakers often keynote conferences and special events to educate and motivate people toward better health. Yet there are other issues going on in your organizations that contribute to the entire picture and you may have some challenges similar to the hospital (who chose to be anonymous) featured in this article.
I’m excited to share the start of this three-part series featuring Holly Stiel’s work with hospitals. I’ve respected Holly’s approach to improving how people deal with people and situations since I met her over ten years ago. She hasn’t written a book specifically regarding hospital customer service, managed care or any other big healthcare issue. Her approach is integrated (not canned, not one-shot). Her philosophies cross boundaries of industries, and are particularly effective in places involving human interaction between consumers and frontline service providers.
Bringing the Concept of Hospitality to Hospitals
Holly Stiel sees the connection between hotels and hospitals not only in the fact that both hotels and hospitals have rooms and food, but especially the link between resorts and hospitals. “People come to a resort hoping for a little bit of magic that a few days respite might provide,” she says. “People come to a hospital hoping for a
little bit of magic that will make them better. And I say that with humility and all due respect. I do not make light of brain surgery or any other medical procedure.
“The point is that it is the service providers, those many players in addition to the doctors and nurses, who deliver aspects of the magic so important to the total experience for the families, as well as the patients.”
For one hospital, it was the construction of a new wing that brought the concept of hotel hospitality to the limelight and led to exceptional customer service, linking key departments in unprecedented ways. The unlikely glue? Establishing a hospital concierge service.
It all started with a new tower to house cardiovascular services. Now if you’ve ever been through a hospital construction project, you know the logistics can be a nightmare. The change created a new entrance with a new lobby. People were coming in droves to a place that never existed before, causing mass directional confusion for staff and patients alike.
After trying various solutions unsuccessfully, they realized that the new lobby required a new position. They knew they didn’t want just a receptionist, and it wasn’t a job for the Admitting Department. In a light bulb moment, they realized they were looking for someone more like a hotel concierge. What they wanted was a go-to person who would have all the answers, who could provide an elevated level of service and take the pressure off all the other frontline people who have their own responsibilities.
“We put the focus on what’s happening in the consumer’s mind. As employees of the hospital who have important responsibilities and deadlines, we sometimes forget that this is where people’s most significant life and death events happen – this is where they are born, where they die, where they come when they are sick or injured. We needed to look at things as consumers.
“We placed importance on the idea that the patient families are an aspect of the hospital service and their well-being is our responsibility as well,” the planners noted. “It’s a family’s experience, not just the patient’s experience.”
For example, (here is the logistics issue again), the patients and their families, in trying to find their way around the new center, were encountering,(let’s be blunt), grumpy employees who were just trying to get their jobs done and weren’t appreciating the interruptions of being asked directions, etc.
Unprecedented as the concierge idea was, it took commitment to get a commitment and get the position funded. It took the willingness to overcome the barriers and try something new. The administration settled on funding one full-time person with accountability, and access to patient records. This was key. The person had to be able to do more than point people down the hall. They had to be able to pull up information and confirm where that person was supposed to go. This person with clearance would be a filter, a screen and initial contact. The idea was that they have responsibility as well as authority.
They had no idea how much more this would become.
Once the position was approved, they were faced with the issue of training. They didn’t want a build-it-yourself concierge. They wanted a service standard that was uncommon in hospitals.So they thought, let’s see how hotels do that.
That’s when they found Holly Stiel. She literally wrote the textbook for hotel concierge services and is currently engaged, through her company Stiel Media, to bring that expertise to other types of businesses. Not only is Holly an expert on the art of concierge service, her approach is all about the heart of customer service, with the complexities of human interaction and human emotions central to the concepts and skills she teaches.
“The hospital environment is fraught with emotions from A-Z, anxiety to zero sleep, especially for the patient’s family,” Holly observes. “There’s some combination of hope, fear, dread and boredom gnawing at the hearts and souls of family members in every waiting room and at every patient bedside. Not only are people often in heart-wrenching situations where their emotions are raw, they’re surrounded by uncertainty and unfamiliarity. What better place for personable, sensitive attention?”
TO BE CONTINUED IN OUR NEXT ISSUE: Holly’s Integrated Approach
In the Headlines: No Fun
I’ve been searching my clippings file for something fun, like My Pet Fat or Thanksgiving in a Bottle , to report to you, to no avail. I haven’t clipped a good cartoon in months. I hope it’s not my sense of humor that’s lacking here. I prefer to think it’s the lack of good news in general. If you’ve run across something fun and interesting (a product or activity) related to health and wellness, we’d love to share it with our readers. Please send it in!
Meantime, when tragedy does hit and it’s far removed geographically or otherwise, I think it still affects human beings at a very deep level (I dreamt about being in an earthquake the other night). Some people, like one of our speakers, Sandy Queen, chose to help on a personal level. She’s on site in Louisiana sharing her big heart, helping hands and her sense of humor and compassion with the hurricane victims. I can’t wait to hear her stories.
Others choose to collect goods, stage a benefit or make a donation. If you’re looking for a place to help, here’s a recommendation:
When Katrina hit, Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, LA was designated by the state of Louisiana as the region’s facility to care for women and infants affected by the hurricane. After several weeks, and another hurricane, its needs are still great. Learn how you can directly contribute to the hospital to support the many needs of its patients at: http://www.healthywomen.org/womanshospitalletter3.html
Until next time, take care of yourself, and look for some fun for your well being and those you love.
ABOUT OUR SERVICES
The Speak Well Being Group specializes in providing exceptional speakers for health, wellness and women’s events. Because we’ve worked with so many hospitals and healthcare groups around the country, we speak your language. Our hand-picked speakers are attuned to your needs and adept at addressing the issues while delivering information in an entertaining way, or simply providing a good time with a light message when that’s the ticket. When you work with us, you’ll come back for more “How are we going to top that?” speakers.
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