Oncology, cardiology or urology – it is not only the names of these policlinics that are responsible for giving rise to confusion in many people; but also signage has proved to be quite a puzzle for many visitors. “ While you need to realise that we are guests there”, emphasizes Erwin Losekoot, lector of Hospitality Studies at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences. “ Many hospitals could really make an drastic improvement in their hospitality, or customer friendliness.”
Let’s be honest; no one goes to a hospital for entertainment. And yet, Erwin Losekoot sees many similarities with the hotel industry. “You stay there for a while, you consume food and drinks and if you need to you can also sleep there. This is precisely the same service that a hotel offers”, he says. “It is not for nothing that the word hospitality emerged from the word hospital. The only thing is that with the passage of time it has become a kind of health factory. The quicker you recover, the better. This mind-set needs to change. This is why the research group has been looking for ways to increase the hospitality in hospitals. “Take the entrance hall as an example. Just by looking at all the signage and the routes you feel very lost.” says Losekoot. “Students have come up with a plan to delineate the various routes by signalling them with various colours on the ground. In this way you can streamline the search in a very simple manner. Such an improvement is not rocket science.”
The second point of attention is the appointment of hosts, who can welcome patients and visitors. “The chance is quite large that many people do not think logically because they are nervous”, the lector describes. “It is precisely in this case that personal contact is necessary. Someone who shows you the way or who can guide you to the right polyclinic. You can compare it to the porter at the entrance of a hotel. A simple ‘welcome’ can make a world of a difference.”
Visiting hours are another phenomenon that irritate Losekoot. “If there is something that is not hospitable, it is the visiting hours. In many cases these were thought up decades ago , but in the meantime they have become redundant. Therefore get rid of them.” The coffee rounds on every department need to be updated. “Why not allow patients and their visitors make their own coffee in a kitchenette as you would do at home. This is the type of service that makes a difference. Often it is assumed that these rules are necessary for safety reasons or so that nurses can carry out their work uninterrupted. Simply put these rules are often there only because they have been this way for a long time.”
It is the realm of hospitality that hospitals could rise above their competition in the future, thinks Losekoot. “ In the Netherlands we definitely have excellent health case. With hospitality you can make a difference. Every experience needs to be a positive moment; a moment of truth, as the Swedish Jan Carlzon says. In every hospital you are asked to fill in a questionnaire at the end of a treatment. Through this questionnaire you are not judging how well your stitches have been applied, but you are judging how the employees have treated you. This is just what needs to happen in every hospital.”
Erwin Losekoot is Hospitality Studies lector at NHL Stenden Hogeschool. An important task of the research group is to contribute to the education of Stenden Hotel Management School.