The Intersection of Hospitality and Healthcare
Held in fall 2011, the first Hospitality and Healthcare Roundtable represented a collaboration between the Center for Hospitality Research and the Sloan Program in Health Administration at Cornell University. While space limitations cannot fully capture the depth of discussion during the roundtable, these proceedings attempt to summarize some of the ideas discussed and developed during the program. Nearly three dozen participants from both industries shared their best practices, with the goal of finding common ground and cross-pollinating towards the development of improved strategies.
Beyond the many intersections of the two fields noted in the body of the proceedings, a recurring theme for the roundtable was the idea that success in both healthcare and hospitality depends on the core principle of creating a culture of respectful treatment and valuing all stakeholders. An effective culture engages staff members and ensures that they feel their work is important and appreciated. At the same time, effective operations depend on continual and careful measurement of customer satisfaction, using such rubrics as net promoter scores and the national Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). A particular challenge for many healthcare systems involves aged facilities, particularly those located in inner cities. While the facility itself may largely be inflexible, the staff’s approach can help overcome that negative factor. Other small touches also help, such as making sure the facility is sparkling clean, uncluttered, nicely decorated, and properly lighted. Food service is a critical part of patient satisfaction in facilities of all kinds. Many hospitals are moving to a catering-style approach that brings food to patients when they need it. Senior care facilities and continuing care retirement communities expressly use hospitality-type approaches, with guests who are long-term rather than transient. As is true of many segments of the healthcare industry, the customer for senior living facilities is not only the client but also the client’s family. Thus, a holistic approach is needed that involves resident and family alike.
The healthcare system faces financial challenges, as it is likely that hospitals in particular will see reduced payment levels. For this reason, healthcare systems must pay particular attention to costs and find ways to apply innovative ideas from hospitality and other areas to reduce inefficiencies while maintaining high quality outcomes. For society as a whole, the greatest cost savings may be to help people stay healthy, and many healthcare systems are encouraging behavior that prevents or delays illness, often borrowing ideas from the hospitality industry.
Finally, the flow of expertise between the two industries can run in both directions. While healthcare is benefitting from a hospitality-style approach of focusing on a service culture, the hospitality industry can learn from healthcare’s expertise in complex-system management, which involves a system with many moving parts, some of which are independent of each other. These include numerous intertwined legal, human resources, and supply chain subsystems, working with multiple decision makers and stakeholders, and a collaborative approach to product and service innovation.
For a more detailed discussion of the sessions, please see the Proceedings.