Healing in the Lap of Luxury

Posh hospital suites pamper patients with creature comforts

SUNDAY, Feb. 26, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- If you're having surgery, recovering from an illness, or giving birth, you don't have to settle for a bland hospital experience.

More and more, hospitals across America are offering swank, hotel-like accommodations to patients who have the money to spend for added comfort and convenience.

People who stay at the Amenity Suites at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, Colo., enjoy larger rooms, dinners prepared by a personal chef, and bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs, separate showers and lavender toiletries. The out-of-pocket cost: $200 a night.

In Louisville, Ky., Jewish Hospital's Trager Pavilion offers valet parking, gourmet meals and rooms with fax machines and Internet access to patients willing to spend an additional $200 to $250 a night.

Patricia West, who is responsible for health-care development at the architectural firm Gresham Smith and Partners in Nashville, Tenn., said the growth of luxury hospital suites is a response, in part, to market demands for VIP treatment.

Adding luxury suites is also a strategic move by hospital administrations and boards because "they see it as another revenue source," West explained.

Patients who stay in posh private rooms or opulent suites typically pay any costs above what health insurance will pay for basic accommodations. And that can add up to hundreds of dollars a day.

"Patient satisfaction with these suites is high," said Sara Marberry, a spokeswoman for the Center for Health Design, a Concord, Calif.-based group that promotes the use of design to create healing environments.

Marberry is not aware of any specific studies examining patient outcomes in these settings. "However," she noted, "we could assume from what we know about the effect of the environment on things like sleep quality, infections, errors, etc., that they would lead to better outcomes."

As hospitals add beds in the next decade, it's logical to assume some of the growth will be in luxury suites, she added.

But as consumers' share of overall health-care costs continues to swell, will people be willing to plunk down the cash for VIP treatment?

"I think if you ask a baby boomer who has not been in a hospital for any serious type of surgery or has not had a family member (in the hospital), I think they would say, 'Oh yes, I'd like to be in the luxury suite, and I want room service and I want to be able to pick my menus and I want a 24-hour concierge and I want high-speed Internet access," said West.

But, baby boomers who have been in a hospital and have had some costs of services shifted to them might react differently, West acknowledged. "My feeling is unless they are significantly affluent, they're not going to want to pay for it," she added.

Americans who can't afford an extravagant hospital stay may be pleased to learn that many newer hospitals offer perks that hadn't been available in the past. Last year, Baptist Health System in Jacksonville, Fla., opened a new facility that West's firm designed. Baptist Medical Center South offers large patient rooms with daybeds and refrigerators. What's more, she said, "It's fully digital and all the rooms have high-speed Internet access."

More information

Stanford University's Social Innovation Review has an article on high-end health care.

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