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January 5, 2010

Palm Springs Luxury Hospital

Filed under: Hospitals — Doctor @ 7:27 am
Eisenhower Medical Center

Luxury Hospitals

When you first enter the Rancho Mirage suite you will see a bed in one room and a sleeper sofa in another.  There are fine linens, a flat-screen TV and original artwork — and is serviced by a private chef but guess what?  This is no hotel room.

It’s one of 24 luxury hospital suites at Eisenhower Medical Center — and a prominent example of how local hospitals are borrowing pages from the hospitality industry’s playbook to keep their customers happy.

Eisenhower also offers free valet services and a concierge to patients in the suites in the Greg and Stacey Renker Pavilion.  The Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs also offers free valet, and its cancer center offers free tai chi sessions and chair-side massages.

The American Hospital Association doesn’t keep statistics on how many hospitals offer luxury-style amenities, but their spokeswoman Elizabeth Lietz said the association has heard about similar services across the country. “It’s more to accommodate not just their physical needs but their psychological and emotional needs, as well,” she said.

In the past few years, hotels have started making guest rooms and lobbies more like living rooms, said David Renker, who worked in hospitality marketing for 25 years before becoming a marketing specialist for Eisenhower.

“It’s the same concept in health care,” he added.

Denise Burkett, who worked on the design of the Renker Pavilion, said the design of health care facilities increasingly resembles that of hotels and resorts.

“You’re creating an experience for people who are staying in a hotel as well as people in a hospital environment,” she said. “(The latter) is more important because people are at their most stressed in this kind of environment.”

Renker said Eisenhower built the pavilion, named after his brother and sister-in-law, in response to patient demand for more private rooms and more space.

But the hotel-style upgrade also comes with a hotel-style price. Pavilion patients pay an extra fee ranging from $395 to $695 per day depending on the size of the room. That fee isn’t covered by insurance.

Still, hospital officials are quick to point out that while upgraded rooms are available, the caliber of medical care is the same no matter where a patient chooses to stay.

“The clinical care of patients is the same high quality here as it is throughout the entire organization,” said Lynda Sakai, the Renker Pavilion’s clinical director. “What’s different in Renker is they have these amazing accommodations.”

Renker said rooms in the pavilion include wall coverings, hardwood floors, rich textures and warm colors.

“You expect to walk into a hospital room and have a lot of white and a lot of steel,” he said. “We consciously tried to change that.”

The challenge in designing the Renker Pavilion was creating the look and feel of a resort while meeting the operational and code requirements of a hospital, Burkett said.

“Frankly, it’d be easy to take a wing of a hospital and create a Four Seasons there,” she said.

But to create a hotel-like environment that’s also a working hospital unit required designers to find materials that can support heavy medical equipment, withstand frequent cleaning by stringent solutions and the like, she said.

The combination posed some challenges for the hospital staff as well, Sakai said.

“When you walk in a normal floor, your patients are almost next door to each other,” she said. “(In the Renker Pavilion,) there’s a quite a bit of space between the rooms, so the nurses realize there’s a lot of walking going on.”

Joan Scully, 74, of Palm Desert noticed the difference when she stayed in a Renker room after emergency surgery on a broken hip last month.

She said she was reluctant to leave the main hospital after surgery, but her daughter talked her into a Renker room.

“Somehow they’d moved me into the Four Seasons,” Scully said.

In its first year, the pavilion has seen all sorts of patients and diagnoses, officials said.

“I think our biggest volume would be cardiac-related, but we’ve done orthopedics, we’ve had oncology, and we’ve done general surgery as well,” Sakai said. “Overall, it’s been a huge variety of patients.”

While the 24-bed unit hasn’t yet reached full capacity, Sakai said officials have been pleasantly surprised with the number of patients who have stayed there over its first year.

Still, not all local hospitals have decided to put on — or resemble — the Ritz.

John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio does not have valet parking or other luxury- style amenities, said Linda Evans, the hospital’s public relations director.

“We don’t need that since we have plenty of close-by patient parking,” she said. “What we emphasize is our customer service and our quality of care.”

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