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Hotels for hospital patients

Elizabeth Greene

Would you prefer to stay in a hospital or a hotel? If you’re in need of medical treatment, you may now have the option to choose.

This week on “Take Care,” The New York Times reporter C.J. Hughes discusses the rise of hospital-hotel rooms and “medical tourism,” a trend he covered in his article “Trading Hospital Rooms for Hotel Suites.”

For most, a stay in a hotel is a substantially more appealing prospect than a stay in a hospital, and the two aren’t exactly regarded as interchangeable. But the rise of “hotel hospitals,” or hotels built in close proximity to hospitals for the purpose of servicing hospital patients, has allowed some patients to ditch their hospital room for a Holiday Inn.

The option to stay in a hotel right around the corner from a hospital is a particularly appealing idea for patients who are undergoing long-term treatments and don’t want to spend months in a hospital. Some developers are even considering building apartments for patients who need to be monitored over long stretches of time.

“When patients have to go to a hospital for some treatments like chemotherapy, which by its definition takes place over a longer period of time, those patients really are gravitating towards these kinds of properties,” Hughes said. “Somebody who has to be monitored and has to receive periodic treatments over a long period of time, they might like something like that.”

These hotels don’t cater only to long-term patients. It’s not uncommon for hospital patients traveling for surgery to stay in hotels, but location can be a problem. The locations of hospitals and hotels are often fairly far apart, which can make it difficult to ensure timely arrivals.

“This was a problem for some patients who had to have surgery early in the morning, which is typically when a lot of surgeries are scheduled,” Hughes said. “To add to the stress of having to get up when it’s still dark out to get yourself ready for surgery, a lot of these patients had to travel for another 45 minutes just to get to the hospital itself.”

Some hotels also offer specific services for hospital patients. The Texas Medical Center, for example, is the future neighbor of a hotel that will potentially offer patients the option to have their blood tested within the hotel.

“There will likely be a lab so that hotel patients and hotel guests can have their blood drawn right from where they’re staying in advance of an appointment later that day at the hospital itself,” Hughes said. “They can have their blood sent over to the hospital, and have those results waiting for them when they actually have to be in the hospital a few hours later.”

Aside from offering practical services, Hughes says these hotels must be prepared to offer a different kind of service: emotional service. The tone of a typical hotel receptionist, for example, is likely to clash with guests who are dealing with what are likely to be emotionally heavy circumstances.

“I spoke to a developer who had built this hotel near a Presbyterian campus, who said that he witnessed firsthand a guest who was crying in the lobby, and he was heartened to see that his staff was consoling the guest,” Hughes said. “He actually had gone out of his way to instruct the people managing the hotel to be sensitive to the needs of the patients because 80 percent of the guests there were there on hospital-related business, and a lot of them were probably going to be in a pretty bad mood.”

But unlike hospital stays, hotel stays must be paid for by the patients themselves. Hughes doesn’t believe this cost will be much of a deterrent for potential future patients, as the majority of the people in the market for these hotels are quite “well-heeled.”

“A lot of the patients that avail themselves in the hotel rooms at the Cleveland Clinic for instance come from overseas and tend to be wealthy,” Hughes said. “I don’t know if that extra cost is necessarily going to break the bank for some of the patients who are participating in this trend, at least so far.”